“Sunardi, a lecturer in environmental toxicology at Padjadjaran University in Bandung, West Java, said that if the pollution continued it would disrupt the river ecosystem, which could lead to the loss of fish and diseases for humans. “The first diseases that could hit people living along the river are skin diseases and diarrhea. If the river is heavily polluted by heavy metals, the effects are not be seen instantly. It will take years, even decades, to see the impact,” he said.
Gadis Sri Haryani, limnology director at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), expressed a similar opinion saying that if the Citarum River continued to be polluted by heavy metal substances, it could have results similar to the Minamata disease in Japan.
Minamata disease is a neurological syndrome caused by mercury poisoning. It was caused by the release of methyl mercury in the industrial wastewater from the Chisso Corporation’s chemical factory, which happened from 1932 to 1968. The toxic chemical accumulated in fish which were eaten by locals.
Symptoms include numbness in the hands and feet, general muscle weakness, narrowing of the field of vision and damage to hearing and speech. In extreme cases, insanity, paralysis, coma and death follow within weeks of the onset of symptoms.
By March 2001, 2,265 victims had been officially recognized with 1,784 fatalities,and over 10,000 receiving financial compensation from the company. By 2004, the company had paid US$86 million in compensation, and in the same year was ordered to clean up its contamination.”
Read more: Jakarta Post