Clean Future for World's Dirtiest River

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Indonesia's efforts to clean up the Citarum River, often called the world's most polluted river, today received a major boost following the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) approval of a $500 million multi-tranche loan package. The first loan tranche is for $50 million.

The Citarum River Basin Territory supports a population of 28 million people, delivers 20% of Indonesia’s gross domestic product, and provides 80% of the surface water supply to Indonesia’s capital city, Jakarta.

Over the past 20 years, rapid urbanization and industrial growth have resulted in growing quantities of untreated domestic sewage, solid waste and industrial effluents being dumped in the Citarum.

Pollution levels now compromise public health, and the livelihoods of impoverished fishing families have been jeopardized by widespread fish kill.

“The Citarum River basin urgently needs improved management and significant infrastructure investments,” said Christopher Morris, a Senior Water Resources Engineer in ADB’s Southeast Asia Regional Department. “ADB assistance will bolster Indonesia’s efforts to pursue effective integrated water resources management in the basin.”

Integrated water resources management is recognized internationally as the best means of promoting the coordinated development and management of water, land, and related resources in river basins.

“ADB’s initial assistance will provide safe water supply and sanitation facilities for poor families who currently use water from the polluted canal for bathing, laundry and other uses,” said Mr. Morris. “It will also allow the cultivation of an additional 25,000 hectares of paddy, benefitting 25,000 farming families.”

The program will provide bulk water supply for an additional 200,000 households in Jakarta, and will ultimately increase Jakarta’s water supply by 2.5% annually, and resolve Bandung’s critical water supply shortages, benefitting millions.

ADB assistance will also support community sanitation solutions and the construction of solid waste facilities and wastewater treatment plants in the Citarum River basin to enhance environmental protection measures.

“Rapid urbanization, climate change, environmental degradation, public health, and food security are all important issues challenging water resources management in Asia and the Pacific region,” said Mr. Morris. “The strategic plan or ‘road map’ for integrated water resources management will mean that all of these factors are addressed.”

To ensure that communities are effectively consulted about the management of the basin, a Water Council will be created to inform and involve people living in the basin itself, as well as other residential, agricultural and industrial users who are supplied with water from the basin.

Loans for the Integrated Citarum Water Resources Management Investment Program will be drawn from a multitranche financing facility extended over a 15-year implementation period.

The loan agreement requires compliance with ADB safeguards on the environment, resettlement and indigenous persons, as well as good governance requirements and other conditions set out in ADB policies.

Water has been a major area of ADB assistance to Indonesia. As of year-end 2007, ADB had provided Indonesia with 103 loans totaling $4.17 billion and 151 technical assistance projects totaling $68.8 million in the area of water, including related areas such as agriculture, irrigation, livestock, fisheries, forestry and rural development.