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28 Mar 2023

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Seeing the Final Disposal of Trash at Muara Bengawan Solo

Seeing the Final Disposal of Trash at Muara Bengawan Solo 

A coastal village in the Java Sea that is crossed by Bengawan Solo has been dealing with rubbish sent from the headwaters of the river all year long for many years. – “Get ready, throw the anchor.” The signal came from Ahmad, a local fisherman who took us along the estuary of the Solo River. We went to Pangkah Wetan, a village in the north coast of Gresik which became the entrance to the Java Sea, in February 2020.We immediately turned the boat around. Ahmad immediately warned, “If you were late at anchor throwing, the boat would get stuck and had to come down to push it.”

The estuary is muddy and full of plastic piles. Residents’ ponds cover an area of 2,000 hectares. Mangrove trees are clustered on the edge of the estuary and on the edge of the Java Sea.

In the rainy season at the beginning of the year, the river downstream does not look dirty. However, rubbish was seen stuck in the roots of mangrove stems on either side of the river, including styrofoam and diaper rubbish. There are also glass bottle bins, plastic bottles, fish feed burlap sacks, sandals, rubber shoes, instant noodles, food and household plastics.

Even when I lifted the anchor, after stopping for five minutes and the boat’s engine running, a muddy plastic trash was caught in the anchor.

The plastic waste that fills the river mouth in his village, said Ahmad, is a shipment from upstream of Bengawan Solo. The rubbish was carried to the high seas, others piled up and pulled over to residents’ ponds. In fact, at the end of 2019, garbage filled the river mouth at the Tanjungrejo fish auction place.

A fisherman named Nanang recounted that when the river was covered with rubbish during the week, “people could stand on it so thick as rubbish.” Many fish die. Brown-black river color. Allegedly, river water is polluted by sewage.

Ahmad said that the pile of garbage had just disappeared at the mouth of the river after being carried for a week to the Java Sea. If there are fishermen who are determined to go out to sea, the risk is that the boat’s engine will stagnate, get caught in trash and water hyacinth.

A fisherman named Mustain, who is a member of the Muara Solo Fishermen Association, said he had forced himself to go to sea when garbage filled the Bengawan Solo estuary. The engine of the motorboat suddenly crashed because the propeller was caught in the waste bag of rice. The other fishermen immediately pulled him to the mainland.

He said that the cost to repair the boat was between Rp.400 thousand and Rp500 thousand. “If it is not repaired,” he said, “it will even suffer losses because it cannot go to sea.”

Every year when the rainy season and water gates from the upstream are opened, various rubbish flows and covers the mouth of the village river, Mustain said. As a result, fishermen struggle to go to sea, every 10 meters the boat must stop because it penetrates and gets stuck in garbage. Sometimes, fishermen discourage if garbage actually meets the river mouth — it is like being a river of garbage.

Under these conditions, residents of the coastal village in the north of Gresik, which is divided by the Bengawan Solo River, depend on the goodness of the rainy season. They hope that plastic rubbish, water hyacinth, or bamboo sticks will be carried to the Java Sea or pulled aside to the mainland.

They have not yet pursued certain initiatives to stop the flow of waste by reason, even though various methods are carried out at their environmental level, garbage continues to flow as long as the problem of “sending garbage” from upstream does not stop.

At the end of March 2020, Nanang sent a video from his village that recorded the waste of wooden sticks mixed with plastic that was caught in the flow of the high seas. “It’s been three days,” he said via WhatsApp message.

The village head of Pangkah Wetan, Syaifullah Mahdi, confirmed the “shipment of garbage” from the upstream Bengawan Solo. The rubbish was useless to clean, he said, “anyway, it will come again.” During the rainy season when the upstream water flow is high, garbage will automatically keep coming to the village.

“Just a lot of fish died because of the waste shipment from the textile factory,” he said. “Poor fishers, if the water is polluted, fish will die.”

At the end of April, fish died because the waste was dumped in Bengawan Solo also occurred in Sragen, east of Surakarta. The color of the river water is deep black. Impacts on 900 families along the river, the pollution makes the well water smell and itchy skin. Rice farmers are reluctant to use the Bengawan Solo water source anymore because the quality of rice will be bad. Residents urged the Governor of Central Java, Ganjar Pranowo, to act decisively immediately because “the damage to Bengawan Solo was very severe.”

Infografik HL Indept Bengawan Solo

Infographics Step by step out of the bengawan solo trash.

The conditions seemed to make coastal villagers surrender.

In Tanjungrejo Hamlet, I saw that there were no garbage cans in front of the houses of citizens who were at the river’s mouth. Where do people throw their household waste?

A coffee shop owner said the village government had set up trash cans in a location far from the settlement so that coastal residents were littering into river mouths.

I saw plastic rubbish strewn under fishing boats that leaned in Tanjungrejo Hamlet and behind the pond.

A villager tells the story of how the village government used to collect rubbish from home once every two weeks, but this practice seemed useless because residents “still don’t dispose of trash in their place.”

Even so, the village head of Syaifullah denies residents throwing household trash into the sea. “If household waste has been resolved,” he said.

The janitor, he said, came to pick up trash every morning and this has been going on for five years.

Even if there is garbage, said Syaifullah, it is not purely discarded by local residents but residents outside the village, usually a gathering place for people who work on ponds or at sea.

“The problem is rubbish along the river, a lot of garbage shipments. How do you want to clean and wash every day there? ”

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This report is supported thanks to grants from Internews Earth Journalism Network (EJN), a non-profit environmental organization, and Resource Watch, an international research institute that focuses on issues of future sustainability.

This article was originally published on Please check out their website to support them and their content.


Seeing the Final Disposal of Trash at Muara Bengawan Solo

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