Nov 20, 2018 Last Updated 6:53 AM, Nov 20, 2018

Down by the riverside - Kali Ciliwung

Down by the riverside - Kali Ciliwung
Published: Apr 05, 2009

Henri Ismail

Among Indonesians, Jakarta is famous for its shiny, high rise buildings and luxury malls. But it is also famous for its slums. Bukit Duri, through which the Ciliwung River runs, is one of them.

The Ciliwung River is the longest and the most polluted river in Jakarta. Migrants to the city live cheek by jowl along its banks. They live in very poor and unhygienic conditions.

Many of these migrants pay Rp.1,500 (US$0.13) per night to rent modified basements along the riverbank. One room is typically shared by many people, all using the same space to sleep, pray and eat.

Most of the migrants who live on the Ciliwung’s banks have come to look for work in Jakarta. Some are jobless but many of them scrape together a living selling items on the street. Some sell small household goods, others sell fresh produce. From this they can earn between Rp.30,000 (US$2.60) and Rp.100,000 (US$8.70) per day.

Others make a living collecting garbage from the river, which they can sell. Garbage recyclers generally earn between Rp.10,000 (US$0.87) and Rp.20,000 ($US1.74) per day, depending on what they can gather from the river. It is a good day for garbage recycler if the river turns up iron or aluminium.

Some of the people who live here come from West Java, two to four hours away by road. Others come from Central or East Java, eight to twelve hours by train. Mostly, they only stay a few weeks on the Ciliwung before returning home. But they almost always plan to return, and spend their lives moving back and forth between their home villages and Jakarta.

The images in this photo essay take us into the lives of some of Bukit Duri’s inhabitants.

   A young girl nursing a baby walks by as images of the president of Indonesia and the governor of Jakarta
   look out over the Ciliwung River


ciliwung02.jpg
   Access to clean water is very difficult. Many people use hand-pumps to get groundwater which may be
   less contaminated than the river


ciliwung03.jpg
   Local women taking a break from household duties


ciliwung04.jpg
   Outside school hours, young girls enjoy hanging out playing a jumping rope game


ciliwung05.jpg
   Teenagers hanging out together. The average level of education in this area is senior high school or lower


ciliwung06.jpg
   Pumping water outside their semi permanent house under a bridge


ciliwung07.jpg
   Access to clean water is difficult. Many use water from the river for bathing, cleaning teeth, and for other needs


ciliwung08.jpg
   Away from the grubby banks, they use long bamboo rafts as platforms for washing clothes


ciliwung09.jpg
   A man collects garbage from the river to recycle it for a few rupiah


ciliwung10.jpg
   A garbage collector inflates his truck tyre inner-tube. He uses this inflatable raft to drift in the river while he
   fishes out items from the water


ciliwung11.jpg
   Drifting in the river, he collects garbage to recycle. For many, this is the only way to earn enough to survive


ciliwung12.jpg
   At various points along the Ciliwung, getek (rope-hauled punts) ferry the locals back and forth across the river.
   Elsewhere, ropes over the river also allow the multi-purpose long bamboo rafts to ferry people across


ciliwung13.jpg
   With seasonal floods, both the Ciliwung River and groundwater from hand-pumps become freshly contaminated


ciliwung14.jpg
   Two boys in a flooded Bukit Duri classroom during the rainy season. The young are more
   vulnerable to waterborne diseases


ciliwung15.jpg
   Cramped in her temporary home under a bridge


ciliwung16.jpg
   Down on his luck: a homeless man in a rough shelter


ciliwung17.jpg
   Some people build semi-permanent tents along the wall to sleep in. They have to pay illegal rent for this space
   to a local bureaucrat

The banks of the Ciliwung, where I started taking photographs in 2007, are places of extreme poverty. But the people there have a warmth and friendliness. Their communities seem so very alive to me, and this is what keeps drawing me back to photograph them.     ii

Henry Ismail (henri.ismail@gmail.com) was born in Jakarta. He studied political science at graduate level. He learned photography through night classes at Cultureel Centrum TU Delft, The Netherlands and by attending several workshops in The Netherlands, Spain and Indonesia.

See also H Angga Indraswara's Water woes

All photos in this essay are by Henri Ismail


Inside Indonesia 95: Jan-Mar 2009



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