Jakarta (ANTARA) - The lotus is known to only grow in muddy waters. Despite that, it makes for a striking bloomer with its large petals and variety of colors, standing above the water surface, unblemished by its murky surroundings.

Besides its breathtaking beauty, the lotus flower provides many benefits to its surrounding environment. One of them is absorbing pollutants from the water, thereby helping improve its quality.

A lotus makes for an apt metaphor to apply to a community called “MAT PECI” that is also trying to clean up the water in their surroundings, especially the waters of the Ciliwung River.

Ciliwung River stretches almost 120 kilometers, winding through Bogor district, Bogor city, Depok -- all in West Java, and Jakarta.

Beginning of MAT PECI

“MAT PECI” stands for “Masyarakat Peduli Ciliwung” (Ciliwung Care Community). It was founded by Usman Firdaus, who was born, raised, and lives in Jakarta.

In the beginning, Firdaus, who was born in 1968, voluntarily cleaned trash and waste from the river.

He said that in the past, he used to swim in the river, but in the 2000s, he found he could not do that anymore due to the deteriorating water quality.

Therefore, in 2006, the Informatics Management graduate and several of his friends voluntarily began to clean up the trash and waste from the river near his home, which is in the MT Haryono section.

“There was also flood and trash everywhere. First, we started to clean the river in the MT Haryono section,” Firdaus said.

After they finished their clean-up in the MT Haryono section, they began to clean other sections of the river as well.

“Because if there was no example of how (it) should have been done, it would be hard to explain to others,” he said.

He then began to think the group needed an identity to carry out those activities. So, the members of the group named themselves “MAT PECI,” which also serves as an ode to Betawi local wisdom.

The MAT PECI Base Camp is located on Jalan Inspeksi Ciliwung No.1, Pancoran, Jakarta.

A waste processing site near the basecamp of Masyarakat Peduli Ciliwung (Ciliwung Care Community/MAT PECI) in Pancoran area, Jakarta. (ANTARA/Cindy Frishanti)


Firdaus feels that to improve the condition of the river, people must not focus on one section alone, rather, the river must be improved from upstream to downstream.

He said that waste is not the only problem afflicting the river. There is also encroachment of the river by the community and land conversion.

“Change of land use, for example, forest is used for (growing) vegetable crops. Many of what were once protected forests have been turned into residences and villas,” he added.

Measures to protect the river will need to include changing how people see the river itself and changing their thinking about the river so that they come to consider it a life source, and not a place to throw waste.

This is why, in 2009, Firdaus established MAT PECI as an organization and legal entity with focus divisions.

The organization focuses on watershed conservation, urban farming, waste solutions, rescue and disaster response, cultural conservation, education and community empowerment, law and advocacy, as well as information and communication.

MAT PECI has also set up “Sekolah Sungai Ciliwung” (Ciliwung River School) to educate people about nature, their surrounding environment, and watersheds.

Firdaus emphasized that people of all ages can participate in the Ciliwung River School, which offers lessons that can be customized at the request of the participants.

It is said that the school is helping the Jakarta Environmental Services to educate their employees about how to clean and maintain the river.

The school is located in three places, that is in MT Haryono, Srengseng Sawah, and Lenteng Agung — all in Jakarta.

MAT PECI is also conducting eco-edutourism activities on Ciliwung River from the Srengseng Sawah section up to the MT Haryono section, both in Jakarta.

The money earned from the eco-edutourism activities goes toward the organization’s operational costs.

Funds also come from the members of the organization as well as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. However, often, the CSR support is in the form of infrastructure and equipment.

“We can use the infrastructure and equipment to generate income for our operational costs,” Firdaus said.

The organization has about 150 members besides volunteers, who are mostly university students.


A board donated by the Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing (PUPR) to Ciliwung Care Community (MAT PECI) in Pancoran area, Jakarta. (ANTARA/Cindy Frishanti)

Hope for Future

The government has been trying to normalize the 33 kilometers long Ciliwung River in Jakarta area since 2014.

So far, work on 16 kilometers has been completed, while for the remaining 17 kilometers, work and land acquisition are still on.

When asked what MAT PECI is expecting from the government, secretary of the organization, Maulana Basid, said that it hopes the government will create a sustainable program for the normalization of Ciliwung River.

Basid noted that, usually when leaders change, programs also change.

He said he hopes that the government will create short-term, medium-term, and long-term programs to improve the condition of Ciliwung River.

He further said that he is happy to see the younger generation starting to care about the cleanliness of the river.

He added that his organization cannot improve the river on its own; instead, the task requires the involvement of everyone, including the public, communities, companies, and governments.That also applies to rivers in other provinces.

Everyone from upstream to downstream needs to work together to protect rivers, which are major sources of water for the people.

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Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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