a worker collects rubbish from a section of the covered river

Cover-up: Jakarta hides foul river with giant net before Asian Games

Authorities install mesh net to hide sight and smell of Sentiong River from athletes

— The Jakarta city government has come under fire for buying a giant nylon net to cover up a polluted and foul-smelling river weeks before the Indonesian capital hosts the 2018 Asian Games.

The Sentiong River, which twists alongside the athletes’ village in Kemayoran in central Jakarta, is so polluted it is known by locals as kali item or the black river.

a worker collects rubbish from a section of the covered river
A worker collects rubbish from a section of the covered river. Aerators and “nano bubble” technology are also being used to help break down organic material. Photograph: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

 

The administration installed a 600 by 20 metre black mesh net earlier in July to minimise the putrid stench and unsightly view.

“It​​s function is to elevate the beauty [of the river] so that the black water cannot be seen by international athletes”

An official from the Jakarta water resources agency said the nets were intended to hide the aquatic eyesore.

“Its function is to elevate the beauty [of the river] so that the black water cannot be directly seen by international athletes,” the official, Supriyono, told Kompas.

The cost of the river beautification plan is just over 580m rupiah (£30,000), Jakarta’s deputy governor, Sandiaga Uno, told reporters at city hall on Tuesday.

The move has been criticised and ridiculed, with some saying the city government was more interested in covering up the river than in trying to clean it.

Jakarta’s governor, Anies Baswedan, has argued that his administration inherited the chronic problem.

a garbage scavenger paddling along the ‘black river’
A picture from 2011 of a garbage scavenger paddling along the ‘black river’. Photograph: Nurcholis/REX/Shutterstock

 

“If the past administrations took notice of this issue, we would not have inherited the black river,” he told Tempo. “But now it has grabbed widespread attention.”

The governor said on a visit to the area that the river had to be covered up because it ran past the athletes’ dining hall.

He also said the government was working to clean the waterway by employing aerators and “nano bubble” technology to help break down organic material.

Water from a dam in Bogor in west Java is being pumped in to help flush the river out, and the city government said it planned to build more wastewater treatment plants.

Wastewater from houses and a nearby tofu factory have contributed to the condition of the Sentiong, one of many polluted rivers that run through Jakarta.

The national development and planning board reported in February that 96% of river water in the Indonesian capital was severely polluted.

The Asian Games begin on 18 August, with 11,000 athletes from 45 countries expected to attend the largest multi-sporting event after the Olympics.

Events will be hosted in Jakarta and Palembang in south Sumatra.


by Kate Lamb | The Guardian