Brantas River Project, Indonesia
By 2001, the Brantas River in East Java had become extremely polluted. Poor industrial and domestic waste management along the river had led to a worrying decline in water quality. This was harming the health of local villagers and threatening biodiversity.
There were several reasons why the company chose to address this issue:
*The local population was suffering from health problems caused by poor water quality
*Pollution in the river was threatening the supply of water to the East Java Region, including the local Unilever factory
*The local environment was deteriorating
*Water is one of Unilever?s three sustainability initiatives (the other two are fisheries and agriculture). Unilever?s experience in this area and role in the local community meant the company was in a good position to act.
The objectives of the project were to set up a long-term programme to improve the health and living conditions of the local population and reduce pollution. This would involve the direct participation of local communities and businesses.
The project had two clear stages:
*Short term: the first step was to set up a community initiative
*Long term: improvement in water quality was expected to take longer and involve other industries along the Brantas.Unilever helped set up the Clean Brantas Forum, to clean up the river and maintain it as a local resource for the community. Unilever ?adopted? four riverside villages where it helped rehabilitate public sanitation units, school facilities and waste collection systems.
A community education programme encouraged people living on the riverside to change the layout of their houses so that their front doors faced the river. This was intended to give residents an interest in improving the river, which they had tended to use for waste disposal. Waste is now stored in bins at the back of the house for collection.
Environmental and income-generating activities for the community included fruit-tree planting and providing local fishermen with 7,000 fingerlings (baby fish), supplies and equipment.
Unilever?s initiative was closely linked to the Indonesian government?s water management programme, PROKASIH.
The East Java government worked with Unilever to restore the riverbank and help other industries set up Village Adoption Programmes.
Unilever also worked with the East Java Settlement Agency, the local university and Jambangan local authority to set up a 2,000 m2 composting unit in Jambangan village, which is managed by a local community organisation.
The project was initiated by Unilever, but with the aim of directly including the local population and encouraging other businesses in the area to get involved.The company spent US$ 93,000 in 2001-2002 and has appointed a full time manager to oversee the project. She is supported by a full time environmental expert, a local field manager and a part time senior manager.
Several components of the project were funded by cost-sharing and in-kind contributions.The project has created healthier living conditions and generated income for local people. This is motivating the community to take an active role in protecting their environment.
People are now segregating their own rubbish so they can sell reusable goods and compost organic waste. The tree planting has made the village greener. Villagers sell morinda fruit from the new trees and a nursery has been set up to provide a continuous supply of trees. The local fishermen have benefited from the river clean-up and the supplies provided by Unilever.
Unilever received an award from the Indonesian Minister of the Environment for setting up the Clean Brantas Forum. The Minister said that the Village Adoption Programme could be implemented by various other environmental programmes throughout Indonesia.
In two years the village adoption programme has been successfully implemented and developed as a model that can be used elsewhere.
The cleaning of the river will take longer, but this was expected.
Working in partnership with government agencies, NGOs, universities, the private sector and local communities ensured that the project was successful and will be long-lasting.
The ?bottom-up? approach guaranteed the direct involvement of decision makers from the village. Dedicating a full-time manager to the project made sure milestones were met and that the spirit and vision of the project were adopted by all the stakeholders.
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