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Monash University and West Java Government Partner to Revitalise Polluted Citarum River

Monash University and the Provincial Government of West Java, Indonesia today signed a Letter of Intent to collaborate on developing new solutions to restore the Citarum River – one of the most polluted rivers in the world.

The partnership will see Monash work together with Indonesian researchers and government agencies to share knowledge and data, and co-develop innovative social and technological solutions to revitalise the Citarum River and its surrounding communities.  Speaking at the virtual signing ceremony, Monash University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Global Engagement) Professor Abid Khan, said he was excited to progress projects that could make a material difference for millions of people who rely on polluted river water. "As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, access to clean water and surrounding environments is critical for community health and wellbeing,"

Professor Khan said. "Monash’s transdisciplinary research experience in social and environmental transformation, fused with commitment from our Indonesian government and academic partners will enable us to tackle significant sustainable development challenges. Together we will develop innovative solutions that can lead to millions living healthier, safer and more productive lives."

Signing the Letter of Intent for the Provincial Government, West Java Governor, H.E. Ridwan Kamil said: "The collaboration with Monash University is one of our strategic collaborations on the acceleration of pollution and damage control in the Citarum Watershed, which is in line with Presidential Regulation Number 15 in the Year 2018."

"This is a penta-helix collaboration with Monash University, especially as we are collaborating with universities across the country. We are very delighted that Monash University will be involved in formulating the concept of the revitalisation of the Citarik Watershed, which will become a showcase of the successful handling of damage and pollution control in the Citarum Watershed."

"We hope this collaboration will continue with many activities. In my period as Governor of West Java, and also as a Commander of the task force for controlling damage and pollution of the Citarum Watershed, we have an active target called Citarum Harum, which entails creating a Clean Citarum Watershed by raising public awareness of the watershed's cleanliness, so it can be used for ecotourism, which can ultimately increase people's income and wellbeing," he said.

The Provincial Government of West Java and Universitas Indonesia (UI) have been active collaborators with Monash in recent years on urban water resources management. In 2018, Monash and UI were invited to contribute new ideas to support the Citarum Harum – a multi-year restoration program, with its task force led by West Java Governor H.E. Mochamad Ridwan Kamil.  Just before the coronavirus pandemic struck, the Governor also visited Monash University in Melbourne, endorsing a concept to co-design and test new social, technological and economic approaches in a village in the Citarum basin. 

Director of the Informal Cities Lab within Monash’s Faculty of Art Design and Architecture, Professor Diego Ramirez-Lovering is co-leading the Citarum Program. "Our goal is to use urban design as an integrative platform to embed sustainable solutions in urban developments to moderate complex planetary health dynamics," Professor Ramirez said.

"What is needed is a holistic approach that addresses environmental quality and ecological health that brings health and prosperity to communities – particularly those most vulnerable to climate change and environmental degradation."

The Environmental Agency of West Java will be a key implementing partner over the next 12 months. Head of the Environmental Agency Dr. Prima Mayaningtias, said: "We highly support the cooperation between Monash University and West Java Province, as well as other stakeholders such as the Central Government and University of Indonesia, as bringing the penta-helix collaboration into action."

"In the future, we encourage more municipalities, private, and local communities to take part in the Citarum River revitalisation. Hopefully, the partnership will be a role model for other river restoration projects in Indonesia."

Universitas Indonesia Head of the Citarum Research Social Team, Dr Reni Suwarso, said that addressing river health requires commitment across sectors in order to achieve multiple benefits. "The ability to access and benefit from sufficient safe and reliable water has significant consequences for human health and wellbeing, the economy and environment," Dr Suwarso said. 

Universitas Indonesia Head of the Citarum Research Engineering Team, Dr. Rr. Dwinanti Rika Marthanty, S.T., M.T. said: "We are focusing on impact research that can bring about meaningful, transformative and sustainable change for river communities by integrating technology interventions and social innovations."

Since 2018, researchers across six Monash faculties have been collaborating with Indonesian and other global universities and institutes on a number of different research projects focused on the Citarum basin (Monash Sustainable Development Institute; Art, Design and Architecture; Arts; Business and Economics; Engineering and Science). 

The diverse research projects span flood modelling, capacity building on revitalisation policies, social and infrastructure innovations to improve water and waste services, transitions to circular economies, sustainable agriculture, and more. These transdisciplinary research endeavours will generate new evidence for river restoration and transitioning riverine communities towards circular and restorative economies – which will pave the way to transform watersheds across Indonesia and South-East Asia over the coming decades.

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