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Textile factories in Indonesia pollute water in Cikijing River, tributary of Citarum River, Indonesia

Textile Manufacturies in Indonesia Pollute The Citarum River at the Expense of Fashion


Rancaekek, Bandung, West Java, Indonesia –  The Citarum River in West Java, Indonesia is considered one of the most polluted river in the world [1]. Over 2,000 industrial facilities operate along the river’s basin, of which 447 are from the garment and textile industry [2,3]. The textile industry accounts for US 20 billion in Indonesia’s economy (video);[4] it is one of the top 10 textile and apparel manufacturing countries worldwide [3]. For decades, unregulated wastewater effluent has been released into the river as the government’s lenient laws have permitted them to do so, [3] even after studies have revealed high pollution levels in water and soil which affect land productivity and food security [5]. Elderly citizens explain how the river used to be healthy full of aquatic life before the textile and other manufacturing companies boomed in Indonesia by the late 1970s and started dumping untreated wastewater effluent into the river [3]. Three Textile Factories go to court - The textile factories of PT Kahatex, PT Insan Sandan Internusa and PT Five Star Textile had been releasing such untreated wastewater, into Cikijin River, a tributary to Citarum River degrading the river [4]. Cikijing river is in the district of Sumedang and Bandung. Sumedang district is where the three textiles are located, Kahatex is the biggest one. The main water pollution is affecting the villages of Suka Mulya, Linggar, Jelegong, dan Bojonglo district of Banding Rancaekek [6,7]. High levels of heavy metals have been found in the area such as: Chromium, Copper, Arseninc, lead and Cobalt, far exceeding the safety standards[2-5,8].“It has been going on even tough they have been sanctioned by government authorities and indicted in a criminal court; still they do it.”  Dhanur Santiko – speakperson for Bandung Legal Aid (YLBHI) (VIDEO) [4]. The dyed water is found to have toxic chemicals and persistent environmental contaminants potentially harmful to humans and river life [9]. A local from the area, Rahmat, said, "I'm afraid of what's in the water…but I'm poor. So what can I do?" [9]. Since the 1990s due to increased pollution, irrigation declined in the river. The river was described as dark brown with bad odor. Additionally, it was reported that skin can became itchy, crops that were being planted were dying and biota damaged [8]. In December 2015, local community organizations, Pawapeling and WAHLI (Wahana Environment Indonesia) and with the help of Greenpeace Southeast Indonesia filed a lawsuit to the State Administrative Court Bandung Sumedang Regent's decision on granting discharge of effluent to the three textile mills in the region Rancaekek. Court case: 1. Wahana Environment Indonesia (WALHI), 2. Swadaya Community Institutions Concerned Citizens Circle Environment (Pawapeling) Vs 1.Bupati Sumedang, 2. PT. Kahatex 3. FIVE Star Textile Indonesia, 4. Pt. Insansandang Internusa). They were alleging that an environmental monitoring had not been taking place before issuing the effluent permits. Bandung Court ordered the Sumedang government to “suspend, revoke and cancel” the effluent discharge from the three textile factories [3,10]. The organizations argued that hazardous industrial waste pollution openly continued to occur not only in Rancaekek, but also in various places, especially in the area of ​​Citarum River, because of the absence of strict legal action against the polluters [7]. Dadan Ramdan, Executive Director of WALHI said, "pollution of rivers and rice fields […] is a form of negligence and omission for over 20 years by the Government and the Province of West Java Sumedang. The government should be responsible, in addition to the responsibility that must be implemented by the three companies that pollute rivers and rice fields. Stop pollution in the river Cikijing then cancel and stop the liquid waste disposal (IPLC)" he said [7].  Adi M. Yadi, Chairman of Pawapeling said that the lawsuit was a form of public complain "the lawsuit IPLC is done as a form of public complaint against policies that do not consider the public interest and environmental sustainability of Cikijing river, which led to declining water quality of the river and the river ecosystem. The issuance of the IPLC, is depriving the constitutional rights of citizens and the right to a good environment and health. Therefore, we urge the Government of Sumedang through the court to cancel and revoke the IPLC of these companies" [7]. Kahatex’s lead lawyer, Dwi Widi Nugroho, disputed that the factory and the other two were being unfairly punished for the effects of other upstream industries that also discharge their effluent into the river. He also said that the company spends $451,000 every month to ‘effectively’ clean the wastewater from chemicals; both arguments were overruled [3].  Additionally, Nugrobo expressed his concern if the factory lost his permits, as it would be a death sentence to it, to its 90,000 employees and to smaller companies in West Java as 60 to 70 percent  of its raw materials is obtained from them [3]. Local organizations and environmentalist dismissed the threats as they knew it will be a challenge, but it will be a step to better controlling the discharged effluent.  Toxic campaigner from GreenpeaceAhmad Ashov Birry, alleged that the court ruling could set an example for future cases. “We could ask for the government to repeal all discharge permits,” Birry said. “That’s the idea actually. We start small”[3].  Farmers are vulnerable as their lives continue to change ever since the industry began – “It comes from the textile factories upstream," and "…Our life has changed, our river and air is polluted, our paddy fields have become unproductive"[4].  One of the farmers in Rancaeke, Olih Solihin (53), explains how ever since the factories settled there was no rice crop production in his land because the water that runs through it is not clean anymore [11]. Adi Yadi said "Until now (2016), there's been no effort to fix it. Hundreds of hectares of rice fields are polluted, which affects the quality of the rice" [12].  He furthermore explains that apart from economic losses due to decreased value of commodities as a result of contamination of productive land farming, there is another side that has not been publicized and socialized but should be recognized by the public. Such as: air, water, decreasing quality of soil resources, biodiversity and the health impact on humans which can all reduce the quality and quantity of life of people in the region. Thus, he says, it is important to do a multifunctional quantification of the land [13]. The untreated wastewater is not the only source of pollution in the Citarum; the Asian Development Bank report in 2008 found that water quality from the Citarum’s upper river fecal coliform bacteria from manure fertilizer and sewage, exceeded the acceptable limits. The river’s water is used to irrigate crops and is a source of water for drinking for more than 25 million people, counting the greater Jakarta region [3,14]. Aditionally, a study performed at Padjadjaran University from 2010-2013, which was later used as evidence in court, revealed the levels and effects of Chromium (Cr) due to waste pollution in the village of Linggar at Rancaekek were quite high. The concentrations in the water analysis from the river was in the range of 4,9-5,1 mg/L, concentrations from citizen wells were 4,73-8,03 mg/L; a maximum concentration of Chromium in water is 0,005 mg/L. The higher concentrations were located near the river, this is due to accumulation and continuous deposition of Chromium from the river. The polluted groundwater had a radius of 100 meter and a depth of 60 meters. Chromium is used as a color dye and in combination with Chromium compound it can be also used for processing fiber for perfecting textiles. This analysis compared it with previous studies that had tested for Chromium, and the concentrations had doubled, they had also tested for Copper (Cu) [5,12,15]. In the 2010 analysis, it was concluded that due to the low levels of dissolved oxygen (DO) (2.45 mg/L where the minimum concentration is 4mg/L), the river could not sustain aquatic organisms alive [5]. Furthermore, due to high concentrations of heavy metals, such as Cr and Cu, the 2010 study had called for corrective actions to prevent further pollution [5]. In March 1 2016, Coalition Against Waste (KML) demanded that there be stipulated delays in the disposal of IPLC of all three companies until a decision was made in court; and cancel and revoke all three of the company's IPLC. KML urged the government to enforce environmental laws and make environmental polluters fully responsible. This they argued, served a step to an industrial zero disposal [16]. On April 4, 2016, just before the ruling, the report "Hidden Consequences: Valuation of Economic Loss Due to Industrial Water" (“Konsekuensi Tersembunyi:Valuasi Kerugian Ekonomi Akibat Pencemaran Industri”) was released by Coalition Fighting Against Industrial Waste; this group is made up of Pawapeling, Indonesian Forum for the Environment, Bandung Legal Aid, Greenpeace Indonesia and Padjadjaran University’s Institute of Ecology. It was reported that due to industrial contamination in the region losses were not only environmental but economic as well. Total economic costs reached a whooping USD $866 million in two decades and polluted 2,300 acres of rice fields and productive farm area. [3,4,12,15]. They also reference previous water quality studies done in Cikijing river [15]. THE CASE On 24 may 2016 the judges ruled that the three companies will no longer be able to discharge their untreated effluent into the river. “Evidence revealed that permits were given without consideration of the supporting and carrying capacity of the river and no study was conducted to establish if the discharges would impact aquaculture, animals and plants, quality of soil and groundwater. There was no monitoring and evaluation before issuing permits. To prevent further destruction, and taking into account the precautionary principle, the judge decided to grant the entire lawsuit.” Greenpeace spokesperson Ahmad Ashov Birry [4].

Basic Data
Name of conflict:Textile factories in Indonesia pollute water in Cikijing River, tributary of Citarum River, Indonesia
State or province:Bandang, West Java
Location of conflict:Rancaekek
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific commodities:Textiles, heavy metals (Chromium, Coper, Arsenic, Lead, Cobalt)
Chemical products
Project Details and Actors
Project details

- 500,000 people were directly affected by pollutions in Citarum River, and over 5 million people were indirectly affected by chemical pollutants dumped into the river.

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Project area:2,300
Level of Investment for the conflictive project20,000,000,000
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:500,000 - 5 million people directly and indirectly affected by chemical pollutants in the river.
Start of the conflict:21/12/2015
Company names or state enterprises:PT Kahatex from Indonesia - Contaminating Textile Manufacture Company
PT Insan Sandan Internusa from Indonesia - Contaminating Textile Manufacture
PT Five Star Textile from Indonesia - Contaminating Textile Manufacture
Relevant government actors:State Administrative Court Banding Sumedang, West Java, Indonesia
International and Finance InstitutionsAsian Development Bank (ADB)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Indonesian Forum for Environment (WALHI - Friends of the Earth Indonesia) in Indonesian: Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (Walhi):
Friends of the Earth Indonesia:
Bandung Legal Aid (YLBHI)
Coalition Against Waste (KML)
Pawapeling twitter:
Greenpeace Indonesia:
Greenpeace Indonesia Twitter:
Greenpeace Indonesia Facebook:
Conflict & Mobilization
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Genetic contamination
Health ImpactsVisible: Other environmental related diseases
Potential: Accidents, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsDermatitis
Skin exposure to toxic chemicals
Lung inhalation of toxic chemicals
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Other socio-economic impacts, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Violations of human rights
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impacts People can no longer use the river for recreational or survival means (water usage for rice production, drinking or sanitation).
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Withdrawal of company/investment
Proposal and development of alternatives:Reparation of the damages to water, soil and community.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The case was a success as “Evidence revealed that permits were given without consideration of the supporting and carrying capacity of the river and no study was conducted to establish if the discharges would impact aquaculture, animals and plants, quality of soil and groundwater. There was no monitoring and evaluation before issuing permits. To prevent further destruction, and taking into account the precautionary principle, the judge decided to grant the entire lawsuit.” Greenpeace spokesperson Ahmad Ashov Birry. 3,
However, current status of the water quality of the river and or restoration is still pending/lacking.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[10] "There are 300 More Companies Pollute Citarum River" - Official Website of West Java Province government press release
[click to view]

[14] Asian Development Bank Report: Downstream Impacts of Water Pollution in the Upper Citarum River, West Java, Indonesia - Economic Assessment of Interventions to Improve Water Quality
[click to view]

Court case directory

[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[3] Podcast: interview on the reporting of the Citarum River, Worse for Wear: Indonesia's Textile Boom
[click to view]

[3] Case study: Worse for Wear: Indonesia’s Textile Boom
[click to view]

[5] Roosmini D, Andarani P, Nastiti A. Heavy Metals ( Cu and Cr ) Pollution from Textile Industry In Surface Water and Sediment ( Case Study : Cikijing River , West Java , Indonesia ). 2010;(39).
[click to view]

[8] Article: The Effect of Chromium Waste Pollution in Cikijing River to The Physical And Chemical Quality of Pumping Well in Linggar Village, Rancaekek, Bandung. Rancaekek, Wet Java; 2013.
[click to view]

[9] "The Death of the Citarum River: Indonesia's Most Toxic Waterway" - Pulitzer reporting on the Citarum River
[click to view]

[15] Report created for trial: No Hidden Consequences
[click to view]

[1] Walhi : Pollution in Citarum River Reach Alarming State
[click to view]

[2] Greenpeace Report on Indonesia, "Toxic Threads: Polluting Paradise"
[click to view]

[4] "This court victory in Indonesia could send shock waves across the fashion world" - with youtube video

Greenpeace blogpost in court ruling
[click to view]

[6] melawanlimbah organization webpage: Sudah Saatnya Pelaku Pencemaran Mendapat Hukuman. 2016.
[click to view]

[7] Press release by Greenpeace Indonesia: Decades of Pollution, 3 Textile Company Sued, 2016.
[click to view]

[11] "Waste Problem Rancaekek, Environmental Activists Want to Complain to Jokowi" - Activists members from the Coalition Against Waste before and after court ruling. Economic loss information.
[click to view]

[12] Waste destroys Indonesian river that feeds farms : report. Published April 5, 2016.
[click to view]

[13] Recovering Waste Against Rice - part 2 - EN). Greenpeace blog.
[click to view]

[16] Press release: Coalition Against Waste. 1 March 2016.
[click to view]

The river you can’t see for RUBBISH: Former Indonesian paradise is now clogged with household waste and toxic chemicals dumped by textile factories
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[4] Interview with WALHI NGO spokespersons and Court ruling WALHI vs. PT Kahatex, PT Insan Sandan Internusa and PT Five Star Textile
[click to view]

Mungkinkah air sungai Citarum bisa diminum pada 2018? / Could the water of Citarum could be drunk by 2018?
[click to view]

Indonesian Organization
[click to view]

Pawapeling Facebook page
[click to view]

Report - Greenpeace Toxic Offshore Control: A Portrait of Hazardous and Toxic Hazardous Metal Contamination in river bodies as well as some non-manned industrial disposal sites, Citarum River Case Study. Technical Report and Campaign, 2012
[click to view]

Archive of photos gathered for the court hearing: campaign DETOX, water sampling , local community, polluted water photos, etc..
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Suky Martinez, ICTA-UAB
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2815
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