Brantas River is the longest river in East Java, the province where Surabaya as the second biggest city in Indonesia exists. The 320 kilometers long river is also the second longest river in Java island, the most populated island in Indonesia archipelago.
The river never holds any of ‘the most’ title in anything, except it might be the most important river in the island. What means by important in this case is definitely how people in the area are using it for so many purposes.
The importance of Brantas River can nearly be said as exploitation because of so many reasons. And just like any other rivers in the world, when it is exploited, there would be negative effects that follow. This is why we need to talk about this.
What kind of exploitation that the people do to Brantas River? Is the problem so substantial to talk about? What’s the negative effects? Here in this article we will talk about all of those.
The Strategic River
The river is built from the upstream of 5 huge mountains in East Java. The mountains contributing to the river stream are Arjuno, Welirang, Kelud, Kawi, and Wilis. However, with climate change effects that takes place in Indonesia, many of the springs in the upstream are drying up.
Despite it is being threatened by climate change, Brantas river was crowned nationally strategic river in 2006. The reason for the coronation was because this river contributed so much to Indonesia’s national food production. The river that never holds ‘the most’ title could contribute almost 20% of Indonesia’s rice production.
In addition to that, the river area of Brantas river is also the most favorite place for people in East Java to live. Up to 43% of people living in East Java build permanent homes near the river’s river basin, having approximately 1,290 residents per kilometers square.
Many of those people living in the river basin are farmers, thus the productivity of the river is so high. But not everyone is farming there, because many other industries that require a lot of water also co-exists there.
This is where the problem begins. Water pollution and bad waste management is threatening the river ecosystem, and further also the productivity and people living around the river basin. And up to nowadays, there is still no significant action taken.
Household Waste In Brantas River
Here is the case with Brantas river: with so many people using the river basin as their place to live and work, a lot of waste and pollutions go to the river in daily basis. The kind of waste and pollutions vary, starting from household waste, agricultural chemical pollution, to industrial pollution. But first let’s talk about the household waste.
Household waste being thrown away to the river can be vary too, starting from single-use diapers that is trending in the country nowadays, human biological waste, plastic, and many others. One of the reasons why people litter the river is because there is no proper waste management plant in their area.
The river is the closest destination for their waste; thus, they don’t hesitate to throw away any kind of household waste into the river. Lack of government active participation and regulations about not littering the river in the area is also the reason why people are lack of awareness about what they do.
Based on data collected by Ecological Observation and Wetlands Conservation (Ecoton), 80% of freshwater fish living in the river eat microplastic. Andreas Agus Kristanto, researcher of Ecoton said that there are approximately one million single-use diapers being thrown away into the river every day.
“According to Badan Pusat Statistik (Central Bureau on Statistics) count, apparently with daily consumption of four to nine single-use diapers per day per child, one million dirty diapers are going to be released into the water,” he said. Common single-use diapers are not recyclable because mostly are made of plastic-based ingredients, and it can last up to 500 years.
The Not So Fresh Water
While household waste in the river mainly consist of plastic in any kind and form that will pollute the river physically, agricultural waste is different. Agricultural chemical pollution is related to the river’s nature as a source of irrigation.
Indonesia is an agricultural country, yet education and technology in farming activities haven’t spread so well including in East Java. Many of the farmers in Brantas river basin are still using chemical pesticides and fertilizers for their crops which are dangerous for the environment.
And talking about the river as source of irrigation for the crops, we are talking about how water is being contaminated in the flow. Chemical pesticides and fertilizer used in their agricultural practice will then being flown into irrigation water stream and rejoin into the river.
Fresh water that comes into irrigation channel and distributed throughout farming areas will come out as not so fresh water that contain traces of chemical fertilizer and pesticides. Not only it threatens its ecosystem, but also people living in river basin.
In 16 districts passed by the river, people are still using Brantas water as source of fresh water. About 20 meters cubic per second water of Brantas river is converted into drinking water to support 15.5 million people, and all of them are under the same threat.
Other Problems In Brantas Basins
Apart from those two main problems faced by the river, there are many other things that we should notice and take care of. First is about illegal sand mining in the river that not only destroy underwater ecosystem but also potentially cause so many risks.
“Again, excessive extraction of soil lead to excavation, destruction of ecosystems, and exposure of buried pipelines. In some case there is depletion of water resources leading to flood shortages and hardship for people,” as written in a journal published in 2018.
During this coronavirus period, there is also additional problem that the river has to take burden of: chlorin pollution. Excessive use of disinfectant and improper waste management have caused the river as one of the most chlorin-polluted river in the country.
“Average daily volume of waste before the pandemic was 13.6 tons. That translates into a rise to 1.62kg per (hospital) bed in the pandemic period, from 0.96kg before the pandemic,” said Dr Intan Suci Nurhati, a senior researcher at LIPI’s Research Centre for Oceanography.
All of those problems are solvable is a real action is done. However, government still doesn’t consider the condition of Brantas river as a threat that needs urgent actions. Still, if the condition continues to happen, the lives of 15.5 million people and almost 20% of Indonesia’s food production can be put under dire threat.