From rice fields to trash fields: Indonesian farmers find profit in pollution
Robie de Guzman • August 16, 2019 • 1135
Once home to rice farmers and their luscious green paddy fields, this Indonesian village is now a dump for truckloads of rubbish.
As Indonesia looks to tackle the country’s growing mountain of trash, the residents of East Java’s 200-hectare Bangun village have found a way to reel in profit from the problem — by opening their gates to garbage trucks and choosing to turn their fertile fields into rubbish sorting plots.
The health and environmental repercussions for Bangun village might be huge, said non-government organization, Ecological Observation and Wetlands Conservation (ECOTON), which has been observing the issue in the area for the last five years.
Now, more than 60 percent of the village residents have opted to enter the rubbish sorting business, and for the time being, that looks unlikely to drop.
“If I’m farming, I need to wait three months to get results, but if I’m sorting rubbish, we can make money in a day, two days or even a week,” said one farmer, Siti Maimanah.
On average, a worker in Bangun can earn between $7-14 per week picking through the sea of paper and plastic, and that can rise to $35 if the piles are particularly high – a tempting proposition when the farming alternative would leave them waiting with nothing for weeks on weeks, said Maimanah.
Ecoton said it has obtained evidence that the garbage in the area is imported from at least 54 countries around the world, including Europe, the United States, Australia, and Asia, under the pretense it is ‘paper waste’. Reuters found plastic packaging amongst the piles, including from Canada and the United States.
That’s adding on top of the huge amount of garbage the world’s fourth-most populous country with 260 million people generates on its own.
Earlier this year, the city of Surabaya sent back more than 200 tonnes of trash to Australia and U.S. as part of efforts to push back ‘foreign trash’ amid a spike in imports from Western countries after China banned imports.
“Our country has been labeled a dirty country and now America is adding their rubbish on top. Sending this garbage is clearly a violation of the law,” said Ecoton’s protest coordinator, Prigi Arisandi, during a recent protest in front of the U.S. consulate in Indonesia’s second-biggest city, Surabaya.
The archipelago of more than 17,000 islands has been struggling to cope with the waste, with much of it going into landfill and often eventually seeping out to pollute rivers and oceans. According to a 2015 study published in the Science journal, Indonesia was the world’s second-biggest contributor of plastic pollutants in the oceans.
The mountain of trash in Bangun village is also not going to vanish overnight despite the government’s efforts and plan to set up waste-to-energy plants across the country.
And for now, Indonesians like Maimanah say their day-to-day survival is far more important than the environment. (REUTERS)
Malacañang is not convinced that the Philippines has surpassed Indonesia in the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
During a press briefing on Friday (August 7), Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Philippines is conducting more COVID-19 tests which resulted in more confirmed cases.
“Ibig sabihin po dahil mas maigiting ang ating pagte-test hindi totoo na mas marami tayo kaso kaysa sa Indonesia. Hindi lamang nalalaman ng mga Indonesian kung sino-sino ang mga umiikot na mayroong sakit at least tayo alam kung sino po sila (It means we are conducting more tests. It is not true that we have more cases than Indonesia. The Indonesians don’t know who are sick at least, on our case, we know),” he said.
The Department of Health (DOH) has previously explained that the COVID-19 situation in the Philippines cannot be compared to other countries because of the population difference and health care system.
Meanwhile, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año said no country can say they have been successful in their fight against COVID-19.
“No country could ever say they are successful. Look at Japan, look at Italy, even Vietnam, and Singapore,” he said. “We focus on what we are doing is appropriate, proper, and practical rather than everyday compare yourself.” -AAC (with reports from Joan Nano)
Indonesia surpassed 100,000 cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday (July 27), reporting 1,525 new infections to take the total number to 100,303, data from the country’s Health Ministry website showed.
In Jakarta, people are worried with no clarity over the data provided by the government. “We really need the clarity from the government on the exact data of Covid-19, including the red zone area which can help us to be aware of ourselves to not go there.” Cia Teresia said, a 22-year old university student. In one of the busiest bus stations, bus workers are seen giving awareness for passengers by wearing protective suits and holding a placard with number of coronavirus cases in Jakarta.
The tally came one week after President Joko Widodo formed two new COVID-19 committees for the virus handling and the recovery of its economy.
The number of deaths in the Southeast Asian nation related to COVID-19 also increased by 57, to bring the total to 4,838, the data showed. (Reuters)
Designers in Indonesia and Malaysia are adding their artistic touches to reusable face masks, providing essential supplies and style and uniqueness amid the pandemic.
In the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, Nicholas Septian Sugandi’s print shop had been losing business throughout his country’s mass-scale restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, but thanks to a new product introduced in May, lost business has been “recovered”.
Sugandi’s shop has been printing customers’ faces onto reusable face masks so that they can “look like themselves” when wearing it.
Each of the reusable masks takes around 30 minutes to produce, and cost 50,000 Indonesian rupiah ($3) each. The print shop has received hundreds of orders.
Wearing a face mask remains a mandatory practice across Indonesia.
In neighbouring Malaysia, textile designer Hafiz Drahman has utilised traditional designs from around the region to create colourful cloth masks with interchangeable filters.
In particular, Hafiz uses Batik, which is a traditional Javanese art that uses wax and ink to decorate cloth, and is derived from the Javanese word “titik,” meaning “dot”.
“So, as a designer, I saw that as an opportunity to use the cloth that I had, that is Batik textiles, and turn it into face masks,” Hafiz said from his workshop in Shah Alam, on the outskirts of capital Kuala Lumpur.
Although face masks are not compulsory in Malaysia, people are encouraged to wear them to protect themselves in public areas.
Hafiz currently sells his masks at 20 ringgits ($4.68) each.
Indonesia currently has 50,187 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,620 deaths, the highest total in Southeast Asia, while Malaysia has recorded 8,600 cases and 121 deaths as of Friday morning (June 26). (Reuters)
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