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Indonesia’s Data-Driven Water Management

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Indonesia is renowned for its recognition of rivers as life sources, and one such vital river is the Citarum River, one of the largest watersheds on the island of Java, covering an expansive area of 6,910 km². This river holds immense importance for the 25 million people who depend on it for their livelihoods, agriculture, water supply, and electricity needs. However, the Citarum River has also gained notoriety as one of the world’s most polluted rivers due to the substantial presence of toxic substances from industrial waste and domestic discharges.

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Hendro Wibowo, a Senior Researcher at the Limnology and Water Resources Research Centre (PRLSDA), which is part of the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), has presented his research findings titled “Citarum River Research Programme: Towards Improvement of Water Quality and Implementation of DSS for Watershed Management.” The primary goal of this research programme is to develop a Decision Support System (DSS) for effective river basin management.

This research reflects the commitment of PRLSDA to enhance water quality in the Citarum River, a vital waterway in Indonesia. Led by Hendro Wibowo’s expertise as a senior researcher, the programme focuses on improving water quality and implementing a DSS for river basin management.

The Decision Support System generated from this research programme is expected to provide comprehensive and practical guidance in decision-making related to river management. This DSS becomes a valuable tool for devising sustainable river management strategies by leveraging information technology and data gathered during the research.

“This system represents a strategic design and technical plan for the management of water resources and aquatic ecosystems through governance and enhanced hydrological responses in both quantity and quality,” explained Hendro Wibowo during an international webinar, a collaboration between PRLSDA BRIN and the Graduate School of Advanced Science and Engineering at Hiroshima University, Japan, on the topic of “Sustainable Management of Water Resources and Nutrient Cycle in Asian Megacity Catchment.”

Hendro elaborated that the DSS is believed to assist in prioritising locations for addressing watershed damage and pollution control spatially, supplemented by levels of damage/loss risk. Moreover, the quantitative information from this system will aid in mapping issues by simulating interrelated mechanisms between key components and variables of damage conditions within the watershed system.

“This system can also develop and test the effectiveness of various strategic scenarios for controlling land damage and pollution issues, as well as optimising control strategies in terms of types, dimensions, costs, locations, and benefits,” Hendro stated.

“We are optimistic that, with data and information support and good collaboration from all stakeholders, this DSS can be one of the technological innovations to save and improve the water quality of the Citarum River,” Hendro continued.

Additionally, Hendro highlighted that the Citarum River had once been declared the most polluted river in the world. Since then, the government has significantly addressed this extreme condition. Concrete steps have been taken, including issuing Presidential Regulation No. 15 of 2018, specifically targeting the acceleration of pollution control and damage mitigation in the Citarum River Watershed.

In the context of this government initiative, Hendro informed that from 2022 to 2024, the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), through PRLSDA, has conducted an in-house research programme. The primary focus of this research programme is on water resource management, representing a tangible contribution by BRIN to expedite the improvement of the Citarum River’s condition.

Led by Hendro Wibowo, the research programme aims to provide effective and sustainable solutions for water resource management in the Citarum River Watershed. One of the primary outcomes of this programme is the development of a Decision Support System (DSS), which is expected to be a powerful tool in efforts toward more efficient and sustainable river management.

With concrete steps taken by BRIN through PRLSDA, this research is not just a scientific project but also a tangible manifestation of the government’s commitment to restoring and maintaining the sustainability of the Citarum River ecosystem. The successful implementation of the research outcomes is expected to significantly contribute to collective efforts in improving and protecting this crucial water environment.


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