The concrete jungle of Jakarta faces chronic flooding problems due to various issues, not least because of clogged rivers. The lack of open green spaces indirectly affects communities negatively, too. Many of the city’s residents appear apathetic about environmental problems but a group of seven young people, who first met up in 2006, set up an organisation called Transformasi Hijau (which translates to ‘green transformation’), referred to colloquially as Trashi, in 2008.
As a community of volunteers, Trashi aims to change the perspective of young people and increase awareness of the need to protect the environment. The group organises environmental education programmes which includes visits to green open spaces and wetlands.
“In the past, young people in Jakarta thought that one needed to be an activist to engage in environmental work, so they would rather play with their skateboard, play sports or go to malls. But all our activities concern the environment, whether they are schools or homes, because they produce waste. So, young people are our target for environmental activities because they still have good energy and we’re hoping they will be more aware of their environment and start to live a more green lifestyle, beginning with something as simple as littering,” said Sarie Wahyuni, one of the Trashi’s founders.
In the early years, Trashi invited young people to join various activities in the Jakarta including cleaning up the wetlands. According to Sarie, Jakarta is actually surrounded by wetlands, including river, sea, and peat that can absorb water. But the condition of the city’s wetlands is very alarming with only 25,000 thousand hectares remaining. It is not enough to accommodate the city’s needs that is so large. The remaining wetland is the Muara Angke Wildlife Reserve which is saved because of its status.
“As a small community that mobilises the volunteers to save our earth and our environment, this is like a dream, but we want to raise awareness that there’s a wetland which actually sustains the lives of people in Jakarta. So, we encouraged them to participate in some activities by utilising green open spaces in Jakarta, such as in Muara Angke Wildlife Reserve, Ciliwung, Thousand Islands, Rambut Island as nature preserve, and more. Besides campaigning for environmental causes and holding events, we also introduce them to the mangrove forest ecosystem in north coast of Jakarta,” Sarie Wahyuni said.
Recognising mangrove forests in Jakarta is a focus as these absorb high levels of carbon and pollutants. Mangrove forests are being destroyed due to garbage accumulating around the waterways.
“Mangrove forest in the area of Muara Angke Wildlife Reserve is home to rare wildlife, such as long-tailed monkeys. The monkeys usually eat pedada [mangrove apple] but now the monkeys don’t want to eat the fruit anymore, they prefer to eat human trash and they’re so excited when the trash flows to the forest. It’s a very sad situation,” Sarie added.
Another programme in the mangrove forest involved the water bird census where participants learned how to observe the birds that live in the forest, identify the population, and use equipment. Participants regularly observed the city’s parks and established small communities of bird watchers.
The community also mobilised volunteers to visit schools— from elementary to senior high school— to campaign and share information as well as knowledge about wildlife in Jakarta. Also, the Trash Buster programme where volunteers cleaned-up trash and planted the mangrove plants as part of ecotourism packages.
After these successful programmes, for the past three years, Trashi began expanding their activities outside Jakarta, to assist young farmers in the village of Sarongge, Cianjur, West Java.
“The young generation in Sarongge village are not interested in farming and prefer to be factory workers as they see their parents - who were farmers - are still poor. Why do we assist them? The region is so close to Jakarta and the issue is connected to the life of people in Jakarta. If there’s no regeneration and young generation don’t want to be farmers, it means there’s no distribution for rice, vegetables and other staple food crops to Jakarta, and finally they will sell the farm land and create properties there. We are really concerned and we hope to prevent the village from turning into a city,” said Sarie.
After observation and figuring out the problems by interviewing the local community, and after review, the group noticed that most of the farmers didn’t know how to manage their farm lands and don’t have business accumen. Therefore, Trashi provides guidance and teaches them to become independent farmers, not depend on middlemen, and change their management practices. Moreover, now there are more youth from the city helping these farms brand their products.
For those interested in Trashi’s work, there are many packages available for people to get involved during their travels, including a trip to Sarongge village, Thousand Islands, and also some regions in East Kalimantan, such as Teluk Sumbang.