TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – Five years ago, Ahmad Heryawan promised to clean up the Citarum River-said to be the world’s most toxic river-and turn its water into drinkable water. The Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS) politician made the promise one day before the start of the West Java gubernatorial campaign period on February 7, 2013. At the time, Aher, the name the governor is known by, was running for a second term as governor.
Now Aher’s tenure is nearly over and the Citarum River is still the most polluted river in the world. “Cleaning the Citarum River is not within my authority,” he said. “The provincial government is only a coordinator.” It seems that the Citarum Bestari program, which he launched in 2015 with an annual budget of Rp100 billion, could not rid West Java’s longest river of its trash.
According to Aher, the root of the problem is the absence of leadership in Citarum’s revitalization, as many institutions have authority over the 269-kilometer river running from Situ Cisanti in Pangalengan to the Java Sea. Speaking to Mustafa Silalahi, Erwan Hermawan, and Istman Musaharun from Tempo, the West Java governor explained the problem’s complexity at his official residence in Bandung, mid-April.
The water of the Citarum is still undrinkable.
Cleaning up the Citarum requires working with the central government as well as regency and city administrations. If it’s just us, where will the money come from? We’re only a coordinator.
Is that the issue?
Each institution has been working on its own. I’ve also been doing my own thing because I have the budget. But we’re the most serious and the most blamed (on this issue) although it’s not within our authority. The river’s midstream is managed by the public works ministry, while the forest at the river’s upstream falls under the environment and forestry ministry’s authority. We can’t touch the river, and can only raise awareness among the public. So what then is the problem? No one is in charge. If someone is in command, it can be done. Now Luhut Pandjaitan (Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs) is leading (the revitalization effort).
Why has someone only recently been put in command?
I’ve been complaining about it for a long time, but only recently has there been a response. Everyone has been working since 2009, but each institution has been working individually.
To whom do you deliver your complaints to now?
Luhut’s response is very fast. Now there is a presidential regulation that addresses all the institutions (involved). I lead the task force with the Siliwangi and Jakarta military commanders as well as with the West Java and Jakarta Police chiefs as my deputies.