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Indonesians fight for more ‘smelly money’ to bear life near Jakarta’s landfill mountain

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Indonesians fight for more 'smelly money' to bear life near Jakarta's landfill mountain

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Indonesians fight for more ‘smelly money’ to bear life near Jakarta’s landfill mountain” was written by Kate Lamb in Jakarta, for theguardian.com on Thursday 25th October 2018 23.37 UTC

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Indonesians living around one of the largest landfills in south-east Asia have called on the government to increase their compensation for tolerating the dump’s nauseating and notorious stink.

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An hour’s drive from the sprawling Indonesian capital, much of the waste from Jakarta’s 10 million residents ends up in ever-growing mountains of trash that make up the Bantar Gebang landfill. It is the largest tip in the country, covering 110 hectares.

Atop the fetid mounds of waste, thousands eke out a living as rubbish pickers, spending their days with cane baskets on their backs, combing the landfill for plastic and rubbish to recycle or resell.

Dubbed “the mountain” by some locals, the foul smell from the tip is intense – even residents who live 10km away complain.

Residents receive 200,000 Indonesian rupiah ($13) a month as compensation for living with the stench, but now they are calling for more.

“It’s not enough, it needs to be increased,” one resident, Somad, told Kompas.com, “Because of the smell of the garbage I have to spend more, not to mention my children. Sometimes they don’t want to be at home because of the smell, and they want to play [outside].”

Residents say they have to buy gallons of water, for drinking, cooking and showering, because the local water is too polluted.

An estimated 18,000 families live in three villages around the waste site, with at least 6,000 of them working as trash pickers.

Known locally as “uang bau”, which translates as “smelly money”, some local councillors agree it is time the compensation was increased.

Aerial view of the Bantar Gebang landfill site.
Aerial view of the Bantar Gebang landfill site. Photograph: Santirta Martendano/AFP/Getty Images

“I pity the residents there [in Bantar Gebang] because Jakarta is not committed to reducing the amount of trash it sends [to the site]. This is about the health of the locals and it is only valued at 200,000 rupiah per month,” said council member Ariyanto Hendrata.

Bantar Gebang had long attracted criticism for its smell and unsanitary conditions, as well as for keeping Jakarta’s waste problems out of sight and mind.

With recycling virtually non-existent in Jakarta, much of the capital’s plastic waste ends up in Bantar Gebang, burned in toxic piles, or dumped into rivers. Indonesia is now the world’s second-biggest ocean plastic polluter after China.

But the problem is also chronic on land.

Hundreds of trucks travel from Jakarta to Bantar Gebang, on the outskirts of Bekasi city in West Java, dumping an estimated 7,000 tons of waste a day.

Bekasi’s mayor, Rahmat Effendi, who says Bantar Gebang now contains 300,000 cubic metres of waste, is scheduled to meet the Jakarta government to discuss “uang bau” and environmental hazards this week.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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