Village Protects Homes From Tidal Surge With Garbage Dam

Jun, 25 2010

Penulis :

June 25, 2010

Ulma Haryanto

Children playing on part of the garbage dam at Cilincing on Thursday. The solid mass of waste that they are walking on is stabilized by thick bamboo poles driven vertically into the ground. Heavy tides wash away layers of trash, but the dam is added to daily. Health problems are rife in the area. (JG Photo/Ulma Haryanto)

It may not be a solution championed by environmentalists or health workers, but the impoverished fishing village of Kalibaru, Cilincing, on Jakarta’s northern coast, has protected its homes from annual tidal surges by erecting a massive dam made of garbage.

“We came across this idea in 2004. The garbage in this village has nowhere to go. People dump their waste in the sea anyway,” local fisherman Madaming said on Thursday.

The dam, or crucuk , uses bamboo poles as a binding platform, which is then tightly packed with refuse. The result is the last line of defense, albeit a somewhat porous one, between the incoming tide and the villagers’ homes.

About 3 meters wide and 3 meters tall, the entire dam runs for a kilometer along the coastline of the residential area.

“For the filling, we use all kinds of waste materials,” Madaming said, pointing to the food waste, scrap metal and pieces of a decaying sofa wedged into the dam’s bamboo skeleton. With little regard for sanitary or health considerations, the village’s children are regular visitors to the barrier, often playing on it for hours amid the putrid aroma emanating from the mounds of rotting trash.

“When the Baratan [West Winds] hit us, the waves surge up to four meters, and some parts of the dam come loose,” Madaming said.

“We have to reinforce sections with new poles, and top them up with more garbage in preparation of the next big surge.”

According to Sarino, a leader of Karang Taruna, a Kali Baru youth organization, the ward has gone largely ignored by city planners, and has remained untouched by any of Jakarta’s “green” projects.

City garbage trucks arrive just once a week, but do little to clean up the sprawling mounds of trash ubiquitous to the village.

“The two trucks only collect garbage from the Kali Baru traditional market, and we do not have enough land to create a landfill,” Sarino said. “In any case we are living in a tight space, it makes people throw their garbage into the sea. Before we used to burn it. But we can’t do that anymore.”

Suhara, a deputy neighborhood head, said that each week the villagers gathered to clean up the neighborhood, but invariably dump what they gather back into the brackish waters surrounding their homes anyway.

“What can we do? There are only two trucks which come each week. It just isn’t enough,” Suhara said, adding that every Sunday, the neighborhood collected about 56 cubic meters of waste.

But even with their rubbish dam, some parts of the village continue to be left exposed to flooding, particularly during the seasonal high tides that come in between December and March. Locals said that the drastic rise in sea levels, which they attributed to global warming, has had a major impact on the quality of life in the area.

The Institute of Essential Services Reform, a local NGO, is one organization that is endeavoring to stop the rot. Working in collaboration with the Indonesian Red Cross, IESR has begun a community empowerment project to find solutions to defend the village from global warming and climate change.

“We are still in the first phases of the project. Now we are brainstorming with representatives of the residents to spot the urgent problems in the village, and most importantly what climate change has done to their daily lives,” said Siti Badriyah, a project officer at the IESR.

“Last February, some areas were inundated by as much as 40 centimeters of water. Even the subdistrict head office that does not usually get hit by floods fell victim to the surges,” said Supriyati, 37, a resident.

Sarino added that the high tide engulfed the village every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“It was like that for a week and it was really frustrating because we couldn’t go anywhere. There was just trash everywhere,” Sarino said. “At that time of year, diseases such as diarrhea, constant itching, tuberculosis and dengue fever are very common.” Given the unsavory sanitary conditions in the village, that does not come as much of a surprise.

Abutting the dam, the locals have built a jetty made of bamboo poles. Again, some of the children use it as a makeshift jungle gym. When asked about the jetty, locals told the Jakarta Globe that they called it “the helicopter toilet.” At Rp 1,000 per visit to a public commode, most residents simply can’t afford to use them.

“So, some of us just go to the end of the jetty and go to the toilet in the sea,” said Madaming, 44.

According to the Indonesian Solid Waste Association, the Jakarta Sanitation Agency can only handle 35 percent of daily solid waste due to a shortage of trucks.

Cilincing is one of only four remaining fishing subdistricts in North Jakarta, with the others being Marunda, Muara Angke and Muara Baru.

Environmental experts say that more must be done by Jakarta to save these villages and their livelihoods, particularly since they are the most vulnerable to major flooding and the associated health problems caused by the high tides near the capital’s northern coast.

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