The capital of Indonesia, the megacity of Jakarta, is inhabited by over 10 million people. Jakarta is in a waste crisis, and as the waste crisis worsens, tensions between wastepickers, national civil groups and the Jakarta administration increase. Jakarta produces over 7100 tonnes of waste daily, and most of it is sent to Bantar Gebang, a landfill south-east of Jakarta in the Bekasi district . Bantar Gebang started operating in 1989, where the area in Bekasi consisted of housings and rice fields. The landfill has grown rapidly, as the population of Jakarta has increased along with its consumption, and Bantar Gebang is now one of the largest landfills in Asia. Today, Bantar Gebang is the size of 200 acres, and more than 3000 families live within its footprint . Most of these residents work in sorting and collecting metals, electronics and plastics from the landfill, and make a living by selling on the materials. Trucks from the capital load around 7000 tonnes of waste at the landfill every single day, and according to the Jakarta Environmental Agency the volume of garbage at the dumpsite has reached 39 million tons with a height of up to 40 meters .
Although the landfill was designed to use sanitary landfill technologies, it is in practice an open dumping site, which has generated environmental problems such as air pollution, odor and groundwater pollution in surrounding areas . Bantar Gebang is owned by the Jakarta administration, and the administration is obliged to pay monetary compensation to the 18.000 residents who live near the landfill, because of the negative impacts it has on their everyday life. The compensation money called uang bau (smelly money) is to be received by the households every third month, and the Jakarta administration also pays compensation to the Bekasi administration for dumping their trash on Bekasi ground [3, 4].
In 2018, tensions rose when the Jakarta administration failed to pay the compensation fees to the Bekasi administration and to the residents of Bantar Gebang. In May 2018, locals living near and in Bantar Gebang threatened to close down the facilities at the landfill if the compensation money was not paid. A Bantar Gebang resident, Supriadi, said in an interview with the Jakarta Post that he wished the amount of compensation was greater. “We are very affected here with the odor, the dust, and the noises. It’s also high risk for the children because of a lot of trucks [pass by]”, Supriadi said . Weeks later, when the compensation had still not been paid, 51 trucks with garbage from Jakarta were halted by the Bekasi administration . Tensions in relation to the garbage trucks had been reported before, and according to the Jakarta Post, nine incidents of garbage trucks being attacked by groups of unidentified individuals were reported in 2017, indicating the ongoing tensions around the waste management .
The Jakarta administration has also failed to manage the wastewater treatment plant, and according to the head of Bekasi Environmental Agency, Jumhan Lutfi, the lack of management could risk the health of residents living around Bantar Gebang, who use the water for daily activities . Bekasi City Council member Ariyanto Hendrata also stated that there was a need for increasing the compensation to the residents of Bantar Gebang. “This is about the health of the locals and it is only valued at Rp 200,000 (US$13) per month [per family]”, Ariyanto said to the Jakarta Post .
Bantar Gebang is expected to reach its full capacity within few years, and in the struggle to cope with the ever-increasing waste, the Jakarta administration has planned the construction of garbage processing facilities, also known as incinerators. The Jakarta government has announced to build 5 incinerators in the city, where PT Jakarta Propertindo (Jakpro) is responsible for the facility’s construction along with the Finnish energy company Fortum. The first of the five incinerators is under construction in North Jakarta, and is expected to be finished in the year 2020. The first incinerator is expected to turn 2200 tons of Jakarta’s daily waste into 35 megawatts (MW) of electricity [8, 11]. When the incinerators have been constructed, Bantar Gebang is planned to become a center for waste residue processing . The NGO Global Alliance of Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) has warned about waste residue processing centers, as they report that the by-products created of incineration, which include ash, slag or sludge, are highly toxic because the hazardous chemicals from the original waste material have become more concentrated . As for now, garbage trucks still run in shuttles between Jakarta and Bantar Gebang, and local residents keep demanding their monetary compensation while they wish for better conditions and facilities. If the Jakarta administration achieves its plan for urban waste management, the residents in and around Bantar Gebang will face new and more serious challenges, as the health of the residence would be further jeopardized by the waste residue processing center, and as the wastepickers who live off reselling materials would lose their way of income as they would no longer have access to the waste.