Get To Know: How Waste Can Affect Forests and Water Sources

The increasing amount of waste is no longer a novelty as we live in a over-consumptive society. Leaving aside big cities and residential areas, surprisingly, forest areas and water sources are also affected by the increasing number of waste.

In fact, the quality of forest and water sources are something we cannot put aside. Because most of us in the big cities live far away from the forest and the river, we tend to forget that polluted forests and water sources potentially bring unwanted negative impacts to everyone.

As part of World Forest Day and World Water Day, which are celebrated every 21st and 22nd of March, do you know how forests and water resource areas can be polluted by waste?

Forest Waste Fact

Saenger et al. (1983) in his research on mangrove forests, said there are three sources of forest destruction namely; pollution, excessive logging, and forest conversion to land that does not suit its function.

In terms of pollution, it’s explained that the increasing number of waste in the forest area is one of the reasons. Surprisingly, inorganic waste is mostly dominating the pollution in these areas. 

In Indonesia, forests can’t escape from waste pollution. Disposable tissue, plastic bottles, and cigarette butts can be found easily in Indonesian forest tourism areas.

On March 4, 2019, the East Java Center for Natural Resources Conservation managed to collect as much as 250 kilograms of inorganic waste dominated by plastic bottles from the Tretes tourism forest area, East Java.

Numerous attempts have been made to educate tourists not to leave the slightest trace of waste. One example is Taman Hutan Raya Raden Soerjo that has provided waste bins, written warnings, and reminders through loudspeakers to prevent the tourist from littering. 

Plastic waste that has piled up in the mangrove forest area of Wonorejo, Surabaya 2015. Source: mongabay.co.id

The Impact of Forest Waste

The waste-contaminated forest, especially inorganic waste brings its own bad impacts towards the forest ecosystem. As it is difficult to decompose, the accumulation of inorganic waste potentially makes the soil layer impenetrable by plant roots. 

The condition of the piles of plastic waste in the Linara Forest, Lampung 2019. Source: kupastuntas.co

In addition, the inorganic waste that covers the forest soil will retain the water for penetrating into the soil, thus inhibiting the absorption of minerals that fertilize the soil. In the long term period, this situation will lead to the decreasing number of  microorganisms that play a role in soil fertility.

Specifically for mangroves forest, according to Mandura (1997), the emergence of waste accumulation in mangroves forest has killed many peg roots that grow around the red sea. As a result, the loss of these roots will reduce the surface area of nutrient uptake by plants, which will lead to reduced tree fertility.

Waste Fact in Various Water Sources

Not only forest areas, various water sources in Indonesia and around the world have also been polluted by waste. The Citarum River in West Java has been called as one of the most polluted rivers in the world. The Citarum River Basin Agency’s data 2017 shows that about 20,462 tons of organic and inorganic waste is dumped per day. From this amount, 71 percent is not being transported to the landfill, so it is likely simply dumped into the Citarum River.

The Polluted Citarum River. Source: Indohun.org

The bad news is, the Citarum River has supported the livelihoods of 27.5 million people in West Java and DKI Jakarta Provinces. It does not stop there, 80% of the drinking water sources of Jakarta residents also come from this river.

As a comparison, the Pasig River in the Philippines also ranks eighth as the most polluted river in the world and flows 63,700 tons of plastic into the sea every year. A total of 12,000 households also depend on their daily activities on the Pasig River, with 2,000 families living in houses on stilts or under bridges.

The Waste Impact on Water Quality

In terms of health, the polluted water sources have its own negative impacts. Besides causing skin diseases, consuming contaminated water can cause diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, and poisoned by dangerous substances. It does not stop there, microplastic substances will potentially contaminate our bodies through the water or seafood we consume.

According to data from the United Nations 2019, every year, around 297,000 children under five years old die from diseases due to poor sanitation, poor hygiene, or unsafe drinking water.

What Can We Do To Stop It? 

It’s not as complicated as it seems, you can do these following steps to prevent our forests and waters source from getting polluted by waste:

  1. Inform your surroundings about the importance of waste management
    You can spread the education about the danger of hoarding waste on land to your friends, families, and colleagues. Don’t forget to remind them how soil might absorb the toxic substance from the waste throwed and there’s a big chance that the waste will eventually end up at the nearest waterways, causing flood and pollutants in water sources. 
  2.  Keep your waste and recycle it at home
    If you happen to travel or stop by in forests and rivers, make sure you don’t litter. If it’s hard to find any trash bin, you can keep it until you find a proper place to recycle it. Read more about ecotourism here.
  3. Manage your waste wisely
    Apply 3R (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) to your lifestyle by reducing waste production, reusing products that can still be used, and recycling waste. Through this wise waste management, it is hoped to reduce the number of waste ends up in the landfill and the environment. 

    Waste Management Hierarchy

    Manage your daily waste responsibly with Waste4Change. Personal Waste Management Services will pick up inorganic waste directly from your home to be recycled responsibly with us. Your business and company can also take steps in managing waste wisely through Responsible Waste Management. Find out more at w4c.id/RWM.

    References: 

    Saenger, P., Hegerl, E.J. and Davie, J.D.S. (Eds.), 1983. Global Status of Mangrove Ecosystems. The Environmentalist 3 (Supplement):1-88.

    Mandura AS. 1997. A mangrove stand under sewage pollution stress: Red Sea. Mangroves and Salt Marshes 1: 255-262.

    https://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/resourcesquality/wpccasestudy3.pdf

    https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/water-pollution-and-human-health#water-pollution-and-human-health
    https://www.mongabay.co.id/2019/03/18/gunung-dan-hutan-tidak-luput-dari-ancaman-sampah-plastik/

    https://interaktif.kompas.id/baca/citarum-future/

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