Looking At Landcare (29/6/2018) – Appreciating Healthy Rivers

You may remember that a few weeks ago a meeting was held in Forbes to educate the community and receive feedback regarding carp in our river systems.

Whilst we are battling the problem of carp in our waterways and obviously, we all have frustration with littering in that impacts our waterways particularly when a town system leads directly into a waterway, there are countries where rubbish is literally blocking the waterways and invasive species are the least of their problems.

The Citarum River, located 70km east of Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, is one of these rivers. Stretching over 270km, the Citarum supports over 27 million people. This river is listed in the top ten most polluted systems in the world.

Whilst we might sometimes think that the rules and regulations that surround a lot of our day to day activities can be stringent, (including waste disposal), thinking about the alternative provides perspective on the issue. Obviously, we cannot compare Australia directly with Indonesia, but it gives us an appreciation of how significantly different our problems could be and how fortunate we are, with an estimated 60% of the River’s fish species being wiped out.

Some fishermen, that traditionally had made a living from catching and selling fish, now collect garbage from the river instead.

Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, undertook to clean up with River, after previous successive governments had attempted to do the same and only partially achieved positive results. His government has declared a cleansing program over seven years to make the water drinkable by 2025, with $500 million already being committed from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Asian Development Bank (ADB).

In 2017, two French brothers rowed down the river in canoes made of plastic bottles. Sam and Gary Bencheghib, who are co-founders of Make A Change World, raised awareness of the condition of the River, which prompted the government to prepare an emergency plan.

This plan, including new regulations for more speedy prosecutions for offenders, also includes the introduction of CCTV surveillance to monitor factory operations along the river. Installation of septic tanks in households and improvement of on farm waste management systems is also included.

Over 7,000 personnel, led by the Indonesian Army, were working along 22 sectors clearing garbage from the river and surrounding areas. 2,500 hectares of the first sector of land upstream and 80,000 hectares of adjacent land to the river have undergone significant changes due to the extreme rate of industrialisation. Since the 1980s, waste, including plastics, sewage, chemicals and heavy metals have been poured into the River on a daily basis, including 20,000 tonnes of solid waste and 340 000 tonnes of wastewater.

Obviously, such a significant re-vegetation project is going to need significant numbers of plants. It is estimated a mere 125 million (25 million hardwood plants, 100 million shrubs) will be required to achieve this reforestation part of the project.

If the government and the people of Indonesia can pull this project off to completion, they estimate that the economic benefits stretch upwards of AUD$380 million and obviously, improved ecosystem brings cleaner water for drinking, increased crop yields, improvements in aesthetics, increased tourism. Even though our problems are different, the need to clean water and healthy ecosystems remains the same.

Aside from the employment, financial and economical benefits that will be recognised, the sense of achievement and pride of the people along the River would be significant.

For more information about anything in this article, please contact Central West Lachlan Landcare on 02 6862 4914, cwllpo@hotmail.com, facebook or our website at centralwestlachlanlandcare.org

 Until next week, happy Landcaring!