JAKARTA (AFP) – Residents on a string of coral-fringed islands off Jakarta’s coast are battling a tidal wave of trash, with more than 40 tonnes of rubbish collected daily over the past week, an official said.
Indonesian authorities have deployed an army of staff and a fleet of boats to help clear rubbish-infested shorelines and surrounding waters, underscoring the South-east Asian archipelago’s mammoth marine waste problem.
It is the world’s second-biggest contributor to marine debris after China, producing about 1.29 million tonnes annually.
This week’s cleanup operation is centered on an area known as the Thousand Islands, a popular day trip from the traffic-clogged capital.
Residents of one island have reported dead turtles in the area, although Mr. Yusen Hardiman, head of the region’s environment department, said it was not yet clear if it was a result of ingesting rubbish.
A sperm whale was found dead last week in a marine park off Sulawesi island with 115 plastic cups and 25 plastic bags in its stomach.
Indonesia’s marine waste problem has become so bad that officials last year declared a “garbage emergency” after a stretch of coast in Bali was swamped with rubbish.
Some 264 sanitation officers are involved in the ongoing cleanup of the Thousand Islands, while 13 boats regularly patrol trash-choked areas of the archipelago, with another 10 set to be added to the fleet next year.
Most of the rubbish clogging the chain of islands is from elsewhere, flushed into the ocean by bulging rivers or swirling currents during the monsoon season, Mr. Hardiman said in a statement late on Thursday (Nov 29).
Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, has pledged to reduce marine plastic waste by 70 percent by 2025.
But poor waste-processing infrastructure and low awareness among its 260 million inhabitants prove major obstacles.