So we travelled into and around West Java this week, it was an incredible and eye-opening time visiting different parts of the Citarum River.
We started at a truly impressive eco-village that is right beside the Citarum, there is a school there and the children spend their time learning about the environment and how important it is to keep the river clean. Their parents work at the river as well and the parents pay for the children’s school fees in plastic bottles…HOW AMAZING IS THAT?!!! We joined in with some of the lessons they were talking about the river and how important the river is to everyone that lives by the river, we also helped them plant seeds for vegetables, then we went to their library which has lots of books on environmentalism both in English and Indonesian.
All the houses in the village and the school were made from bamboo and they had rabbits that that kept so that they could use their ‘poo’ as fertiliser for the plants!! There was so much to see in the village as to how they lived an entirely sustainable life.
On the down side some of the children and their families lived in tents, but hopefully they will all have bamboo houses soon.
After our lessons with the children we went down to the river which was so beautiful from a distance but once we were in the boats we realized how dense with rubbish it was, it was absolutely horrific and the only fish we saw were dead ones floating on the surface. Whilst we were on the boats in the middle of the river trying to pull out what we could, we noticed fishermen coming out and throwing their nets out to fish…it was so shocking that they really don’t mind about how much rubbish is on there and how much it is poisoning the fish, which means it will obviously poison the peson who eats it. There have been many connected cases of cancer linked to people who have been eating the poisoned fish from the river.
As we were coming back in we saw lots of mini fires on the river bank, again sadly people were burning their rubbish because they realise throwing it in the river is not good so their only other option is to burn it as yet again there is no refuse system.
We absolutely loved our day at the eco-school and will be keeping in touch with lots of the children.
Later in the week we visited a different part of the river where we visited an amazing lady called Irma Hutabarat – she has started a group called ‘Citarum Care’ this is an amazing organisation that has been cleaning and planting something called ‘vetiver’ for a couple of years now. Vetiver works as a bio-system, it is a plant that purifies the water system which is obviously needed. Irma’s plan is that she will plant vetiver on the whole of the Citarum and in 7 years the river will be perfect again. This is a nightly task but Irma is a mighty lady and dedicated to helping the 60 million people that use the Citarum as a water source.
Irma also showed us her truly impressive eco-house that she lives in, it was incredible. We drank pomegranate tea and ate special leaves that have natural healing properties whilst Irma told us her plans for the river.
We also took a quick tour of her mini eco-school as well, we joined in making ‘eco-bricks’ which was really satisfying.
Our final visit to the Citarum this week was to meet the military and see how much they had done on cleaning the river. We visited a different section again and were showed pictures of how it looked a year before. It is amazing the work they are doing, the general was explaining to us that they are digging the river bed so that it is deeper and the rubbish cannot get stuck and collect in certain areas, this posed the question that it then obviously gets washes straight out to the ocean!!! The other disturbing thing we realized was that the river was literally bubbling in the most in-natural way, we discovered that the textile factories were close by and they are still pumping their poison into the river which yet again makes you realize how horrific it when you see people fishing in the river and children playing in the river. There have been multiple reports of adults and children with rashes all over their body from bathing/playing and washing clothes in the river.
Flossie was asked to plant a tree by the river which they are doing to help with the biodiversity of the river which was a huge honour. We also met a gorgeous Montessori school who are taught about the river and it’s importance l, we also did a little climate strike with them which was amazing!!!
All in all the week was good and bad, we met some absolutely wonderful people who are working tirelessly to heal the beautiful Citarum River but there is as ever SO much education needed in this area about the damage plastic can do…again if only the government would give them a proper refuse system it would be the best start.
So our next stop are the Gili Islands…we are wondering/hoping these islands are as clean as they report on the internet!!!