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Indonesia; South Korea: Agreement on River Restoration

(Dec. 4, 2012) On December 3, 2012, Indonesia and South Korea concluded an agreement to restore the Ciliwung River, which flows from the mountains down through Jakarta before reaching Jakarta Bay. The agreement commits about US$10 million to clean up the river, which is considered to be heavily polluted. (Indonesia, South Korea Commit to $10m Ciliwung Restoration, THE JAKARATA GLOBE (Dec. 3, 2012).)

Signed in Jakarta by Balthasar Kambuaya and Yoo Young Sook, the Ministers of the Environment for Indonesia and South Korea, respectively, the pact calls for a contribution of about US$1.04 million from Indonesia and of US$9 million in the form of a grant from South Korea. The work is to be done by 2015 and will include the construction of a domestic waste processing facility and an education center for people living along the river. (Id.)

According to a study done by staff of the Indonesian Ministry of the Environment, there are various sources for the river’s pollution, including waste from industry and households, plus usage of the land in the upstream area of the riverbed, all of which have “poured copious amount[s] of waste and pollution” into the river. (Maulyani Djadjadilaga, Hermono Sigit, & Aksa Tejalaksana, From Data to Policy (Ciliwung River Water Quality Management), at 1, The 3rd WEPA International Forum on Water Environmental Governance in Asia (Oct. 23-24, 2008),Water Environment Partnership in Asia website.)

Yoo suggested that South Korea is a natural partner in this work, stating, “South Korea’s rapid industrialization has resulted in serious river pollution, such as in the case with the Han River. But we did restoration works on the river and have managed to handle the damages.” (Indonesia, South Korea Commit to $10m Ciliwung Restoration, supra.)

Kambuaya added that he hoped this project would become a model for the restoration of the health of 13 other rivers in Indonesia that are now polluted. (Id.)


Numerous past programs and policies have failed as yet to clean up the Ciliwung. Firdaus Ali, an environmental engineering lecturer at the University of Indonesia’s School of Engineering, cited initiatives of four different ministries, three regional administrations, and various civil society groups. He argued that national leadership was needed to do the job adequately and suggested the establishment of a ministry of water resources, citing nearby nations, such as Papua New Guinea, with similar agencies. Relying on local leaders will not work, Ali argued, because “bureaucracy is expensive. They can invite mayors to attend initiatives on saving rivers, but afterward they just go home and forget about it.”(Fidelis E. Satriastanti, Calls for National Leadership on Java’s Ciliwung River, THE JAKARTA GLOBE (Apr. 18, 2012).)

Kambuaya commented on Ali’s suggestions, agreed that progress had not been made under past programs, but proposed that a new policy of treating the river as six segments that local officials would manage could be effective. (Id.) He said, “[w]e will deal with water quality. … If it’s a matter of domestic waste, we’ll find ways to address it. Meanwhile, the other ministries will work on different areas, such as the Forestry Ministry, which will be focused on re-greening the riverbanks.” (Id.)