- A Global Call for River Restoration and Conservation

A Global Call for River Restoration and Conservation

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  • Jumat, 22 Maret 2024 | 20:30 WIB
  A tugboat pulls a barge on the Kapuas River in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, Indonesia, Monday (March 18, 2024). Indonesia‚Äôs longest river, Kapuas River, which stretches 1,143 kilometers, serves as a water transportation route connecting various areas in West Kalimantan. ANTARA FOTO/Jessica Wuysang/aww.
Approximately 51% to 60% of rivers worldwide stop flowing for at least one day a year. This means that more than half of the world's rivers are not perennial.

In ancient times, as historians note, human civilization was inseparable from water sources. One of the choices was rivers. Humans from that era until today tend to settle near riverbanks.

Concrete evidence that humans tend to live around rivers can easily be detected from global maps, which show that almost all cities develop their locations near rivers. This is because, rivers would flow, providing water throughout the year, especially in the past. During that time, rivers would also provide basic needs or sources of life.

For humans, rivers have many strategic roles, including as water supplies, flood control, drought mitigation, transportation, microclimate, ecosystem health, green corridors, education, and many other benefits.

As time goes on, the picture of life on the banks of rivers becomes increasingly blurred. Many rivers that were once a source of life for surrounding communities are disappearing. Both in terms of function and literal existence. This is because many rivers have been crushed by the development ambition that disregards the environment.

The Statistic Indonesia (2020) reports that out of 70,000 rivers (large and small) recorded in the country, 46% of them are heavily polluted. These rivers are now full of garbage and waste, especially those located in residential and urban areas.

Other data from the Statistic Indonesia, as cited on the website, stated that in 2022, out of 111 identified rivers, only 8.1% meet the quality standards. Rivers with good quality are scattered in several locations such as Jambi (Batang Tebo River); South Sumatra (Temam and Megang Rivers); Bangka Belitung Islands (Baturusa River); Riau Islands (Sei Jago River); East Java (Kali Tengah River); Bali (Tukad Daya and Tukad Balian Rivers); and West Papua (Kali Mati River).

Meanwhile, data from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) in the Statistic Indonesia (BPS) 2023, shows that 91.9% of other rivers fall into different categories, such as moderately polluted (4.5%), mildly to moderately polluted (8.1%), mildly polluted (73%), meeting the standard for mild pollution (6.3%). The high number of rivers with water quality problems is caused by several factors, including domestic waste, industry, agriculture, livestock, and fisheries.

Out of all these factors, the greatest pollution comes from domestic waste. The decrease in river water quality due to domestic waste, according to the Global Waters report (2021), can be triggered by poor sanitation systems and the continued dumping of waste into water bodies.


Global Phenomenon

In addition to the declining functions of rivers, the presence of rivers itself is also disappearing. For example, in Palembang City, South Sumatra, which has lost 612 rivers. "In the past, there were about 726 rivers flowing in Palembang City. However, because Palembang City continues to develop, now there are only 114 rivers left in Palembang, or 612 rivers are gradually lost," said Ahmad Bastari, the Head of the Public Works and Housing Agency (PUPR) of Palembang, in the Palembang Tuo River Focus Group Discussion (FGD), Friday (Feb. 23).

In addition to rivers, Palembang has also lost 5,000 hectares of swamp land in the last 10 years due to the many residential developments. The main impact is flooding during every rainy season.

The loss and pollution of rivers are not only phenomena in Indonesia. According to the website, which specifically discusses the environment, this phenomenon is occurring globally. It is reported that thousands of rivers in China have also disappeared. Similar phenomena also occur in Peru, Bangladesh, France, and Colorado in varying numbers.

A study reported three years ago globally documented river degradation. Approximately 51% to 60% of rivers worldwide stop flowing for at least one day a year. This means that more than half of the world's rivers are not perennial.


Restoration Movement

In the face of the phenomenon of disappearing rivers, a significant step has been taken. In March 2023, several countries participating in the United Nations Water Conference in conjunction with World Water Day (Mar. 22) initiated a river, lake, and wetland restoration program. The program, among other things, aims to restore 300,000 km of rivers, equivalent to more than 7 times around the earth.

The main goal is to restore the natural functions and conditions of rivers. The resolution pattern, which was originally based on civil engineering hydro aspects partially, is transformed into an integrated solution of hydraulic, physical, ecological, and social aspects.

This step is crucial because, the problems faced by rivers today, if left unaddressed and not dealt with seriously, may eventually die and no longer support life.

At the end of the restoration program, it is hoped that the rivers will return to health, meaning that rivers will not only be homes to many diverse species. But also, be a source of raw water, agricultural irrigation, navigation, energy sources, and even recreation.

The Indonesian government and society are quite responsive to the phenomenon of polluted or lost rivers, which have lost their main function as sources of life. Various actions have emerged, such as the Indonesian River Restoration Movement (IRRM) (started in 2014), the Indonesian River Congress held annually since 2015, and other activities related to river restoration.

Long before that, there was also a river care movement, such as Citarum Bersih, Sehat, Indah dan Lentari (Bestari)’ in 2013 and others. The real action of the Citarum cleaning program is also what the Indonesian delegation will showcase at the World Water Forum event held in Bali on May 18-24, 2024.

River cleaning steps and actions are essentially efforts to avoid the status of polluted rivers. Because ignoring the status of rivers that have lost their main function will invite considerable consequences. River restoration must be carried out so that unhealthy rivers that have lost their functions can be restored to strengthen environmental support.




Translator: Ratna Puspa Merdika

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