Increasing the Concern for Bantar Gebang Through the Book “Di Balik Tirai Aroma Karsa” (2018)

Jati Wesi from Bantar Gebang

Jati Wesi is a fictional character from the novel Aroma Karsa (2017) written by Dee Lestari (Supernova, Madre). The character has succeded in opening world’s eyes to the infamous final garbage dump of Jakarta: TPST Bantar Gebang. Nicknamed as Si Hidung Tikus (The Mouse’s Nose), Jati Wesi in the novel Aroma Karsa is said to have an extraordinary sense of smell. His amazing skill in mixing and creating perfumes is considered quite a contrast with his day job: one of the workers of Bantar Gebang’s composting center.

In order to dive deep into the life of Jati Wesi, the writer Dee Lestari conducted an in-depth study of TPST Bantar Gebang in 2016. Assisted by Waste4Change, Vida Bekasi, DKI Jakarta Provincial Government, DKI Jakarta Environmental Agents, and the officials of TPST Bantar Gebang, Dee collected all the facts needed to strengthen the Aroma Karsa’s story.

At the top of the hill (of trashes), I stood by and stared at hundreds of hectares of garbage. The view was both second to none and tense.

– Dee Lestari, the author of Aroma Karsa (2017) and Di Balik Tirai Aroma Karsa (2018).

Dee Lestari di atas Gunungan Sampah
Dee Lestari upon doing a research at Bantar Gebang – Source: Poskota

Dee’s efforts proved to produce good results. Aroma Karsa, which was published under the Bentang Pustaka Publishing, received a pretty high rating on the Goodreads book review site (4.4 / 5 – according to the data from 29 August 2018). The success of Aroma Karsa didn’t stop there, its presence in the world of literacy has succeeded in attracting the curiosity of readers and people about TPST Bantar Gebang. The story about Jati Wesi has increased the awareness of the environment and the condition of people who live in and around TPST Bantar Gebang.

Trash Mountain in the island of Java

Gunung Sampah Bantar Gebang
Mountain of Trashes – Source: Sebarr

Bantar Gebang Integrated Waste Management Facility (TPST/Tempat Pengolahan Sampah Terpadu Bantar Gebang) located in the western part of Java siland, East Bekasi, which is said to be the largest final landfill in Indonesia, as well as the only landfill that is owned by the Jakarta area. DKI Jakarta Provincial Government stated that the area of ​​TPST Bantar Gebang is stretching to110.3 hectares of land, with the height of garbage reaching 30 meters. Approximately 7,000 to 7500 tons of garbage enter Bantar Gebang every day, the accumulation of garbage for 2 days in the landfill is equivalent to one Borobudur Temple.

Before  the TPST Bantar Gebang takeover by the DKI Jakarta Provincial Government and the DKI Jakarta Environmental Service, the condition of waste management in Bantar Gebang was quite inefficient. Organic waste that mixed with other waste causes methane gases to be trapped inside the mountains of garbage. Methane gas which is susceptible to fire sources can cause an explosion, which actually happened and claimed 3 victims in 2015 at TPST Bantar Gebang (source: Okezone).

Bantar Gebang people are mostly living below the lower economic line. The local community of BGBJ stated that there were approximately 3000 families living around the TPST Bantar Gebang, the majority of whom were scavengers. Children born and living in Bantar Gebang generally do not get the proper education. The stinging smell not only affected the health of the people but also the mental condition of the residents of Bantar Gebang. Many of them were less confident when they had to perform in the outer society of Bantar Gebang, one of which was due to the unpleasant smell that was attached to their clothes and body.

The Book Di Balik Aroma Karsa & Donation through BGBJ Community

Carrying out a mission to provide aspirations and dreams for children in the Bantar Gebang area, the local community, BGBJ (, was present as an educational forum and one of the connectors of the Bantar Gebang population with the outside world.

The founder of BGBJ, Resa Boenard, was born and raised in Bantar Gebang. But unlike her peers in Bantar Gebang, Resa’s parents strived hard to give Resa a better education. Aware of the environmental conditions of Bantar Gebang that require attention, Resa returned to her hometown and devoted her knowledge and inspiration there.

The book Di Balik Tirai Aroma Karsa (2018) is the latest Dee Lestari non-fiction work published by Di Balik Tirai Aroma Karsa (2018) contains the story and journey of Dee in writing her piece, Aroma Karsa, her experience in doing research at Bantar Gebang, as well as her tips and writing experiences for more than 17 years.

Given the role of Bantar Gebang’s history and community’s role in the success of the book Aroma Karsa, also motivated by the intention to improve the quality of life of Bantar Gebang, the Bookslife publisher and author Dee Lestari and many other related parties, working together to raise donations for the residents of Bantar Gebang. Within a certain period, some of the profits from the sale of the book Di Balik Tirai Aroma Karsa (2018) will be donated to the BGBJ community in the form of children’s books. Information about the sale of the book Di Balik Tirai Aroma Karsa (2018) can be found on the official website.

The New face of Bantar Gebang

TPST Bantar Gebang was officially taken over by DKI Jakarta Provincial Government and the DKI Jakarta Environmental Service on July 19th, 2016. Quality improvement and further establishment have been carried out, from adding up to 3000 units of garbage truck, reforestation around Bantar Gebang, operational improvement of Bantar Gebang, to the provision of health insurance for TPST Bantar Gebang workers.

The mountain of garbage which used to spread unorganizedly and prone to landslides has now been set up to form steps/terraces. G-membrane coatings are used to cover waste beds and have been shown to successfully reduce stinging odors. Facilities for processing organic waste into compost are increasingly being improved, as is the provision of biogas electricity and the Waste Water Treatment Plant (IPAS – Instalasi Pengolahan Air Sampah).

Perbaikan Bantar Gebang
Source: Pemprov DKI Jakarta

The DKI Jakarta Provincial Government and the DKI Jakarta Environmental Service are trying to continuously improve the quality of waste processing, recycling, and the living condition around Bantar Gebang in the future. Hopefully, with the continuous improvement of structures, facilities, and infrastructure, TPST Bantar Gebang will contribute to the success of the Indonesia Bersih Sampah 2025 program. However, the determinant of the fate of TPST Bantar Gebang and its surrounding population actually lies in the hands of the wider communities in reducing the amount of waste entering to Bantar Gebang and also other waste final processing sites.

We have actually stated that Jakarta is in a waste emergency condition and if the community does not change their behavior towards it (garbage), (TPST Bantar Gebang) can only accept and processing 5 more years worth of garbage.

  • Asep Kuswanto, Head of the Bantar Gebang TSPT Unit.

Behavioral Change Towards Waste

Waste4Change Garbage Bins
Waste4Change Garbage Bins

I think, the Government must also start to provide an education as well as an understanding that waste is expensive, that garbage is not something we can do for free. The waste and the price we have to spend to produce waste shouldn’t be cheap. This should happen in order for us to value our lifestyle more, appreciate more about what we have, and not waste carelessly.

– Dee Lestari, author of Behind the Curtain of Aroma Karsa (2018) and Aroma Karsa (2017)

The Indonesia Bersih Sampah 2025 program that encourages a reduction in the amount of waste and an increase in the amount of waste recycling has been inaugurated by President Joko Widodo in October 2017. The many other regulations and laws that encourage better waste management behavior has further proven Indonesian Government participation in making Indonesian citizens more aware of the impact of waste and the prices that must be allocated for waste management.

Garbage is an individual responsibility. Our task in managing our waste isn’t only separating and disposing of waste to its designated place, but also ensuring that our waste will be handled properly. Bantar Gebang is just one of many reality portraits of life that have shown how a community can be adversely affected by inefficient and ineffective waste management. If we do not immediately improve our behavior towards garbage, the reality that occurs in Bantar Gebang can become ours in the future.

Manage your waste wisely. Separate and reduce the amount of waste we produce every day.

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