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Once Upon a River - Indonesia's polluted Citarum

December 27, 2021

The Citarum river in West Java is considered the dirtiest river in the world. Textile factories discharge tons of untreated toxic waste into the river every day.

DW Dokus KW 1 | Once Upon a River Asia's Water Crisis Citarum Indonesia
Image: tvf

Local residents also treat the river as a dumping ground, using the waters to dispose of excrement and household waste.

DW Dokumentationen Ist der Citarum noch zu retten?
Image: Java

In spite of how dirty the river is, at least 30 million people across West Java rely on the Citarum to irrigate the farmland that feeds them. Now, as part of the "Citarum Harum" project, the Indonesian government is trying to clean the river up. 

Fluss Citarum in Indonesien
Image: Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images

This documentary follows the Indonesian military as it implements a multi-million dollar effort aimed at returning the 270-kilometer stretch of river to a more pristine state. The film interviews factory owners who are investing in the future of sustainable waste management, and environmental activists who are fighting the illegal dumping of industrial chemicals.

Indonesien Fluss durch Chemikalien einer Textilfabrik verschmutzt
Image: Getty Images/AFP/T. Matahari

The ramifications of the project are far-reaching: The WHO estimates that in 30 years 50% of the world's population will be forced to live in water-scarce regions.  Climate change is further accelerating the water crisis, which will inevitably trigger conflicts in the affected regions.

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