Jakarta covers up ‘stinky, toxic’ river near Asian Games village

Authorities this week decided to hide one of the city’s toxic waterways as it appears beyond immediate repair.

Blackwash: Workers clean a river covered with black nylon mesh near the Asian Games athletes’ village in Jakarta on July 20, 2018.   -  AFP

A toxic, foul-smelling river near the Asian Games athletes’ village in Jakarta has been covered with black nylon mesh over fears it will be an eyesore at the showpiece event.

Officials in the Indonesian capital have been scrambling to ready venues, finish building work, widen roads and address the city’s notorious traffic congestion before the Games, which are being held from August 18 to September 2. But one of the sprawling city’s toxic waterways, which backs onto the main residence for competitors, appears beyond immediate repair, so authorities this week decided to hide it.

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Some 730 metres (2,400 feet) of the Sentiong — dubbed the “Black River” by locals because of its filthy dark appearance — will be covered, Nelson Simanjuntak, a Jakarta water resources agency official, told AFP. “It's function is to elevate the beauty (of the river) so that the black water cannot be directly seen by international athletes,” Supriyono, another official at the agency, told the Kompas daily.

‘Nano bubble’ waste technology

Authorities hope the black netting will also minimise the foul smell emanating from the river, which is partly caused by water evaporating under the tropical sun. Cutting edge “nano bubble” waste technology, which helps break down organic material and neutralise chemicals, is being deployed for the same purpose.

Nearby, multi-coloured flags have been installed, while workers are painting a river bank retaining wall in vibrant colours.

Some residents have already noticed an improvement. “Before, the river was so dirty and smelly... I hope this can be retained after the Asian Games,” local man Busri Berlani told AFP.

Jakarta is built on a river delta and has an extensive waterway system that is often used as a dumping ground for household waste. Trash-clogged waterways are a major contributor to annual flooding during the rainy season.

Jakarta and Palembang in Sumatra are set to host about 11,000 athletes and 5,000 officials from 45 countries for the Asian Games, the world’s biggest multi-sport event behind the Olympics.

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