Bird hunt in a giant reservoir

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At the north-end of Jatiluhur Dam, Purwakarta, lush trees at the foothill of Mount Lembu that descends to the giant reservoir makes perfect habitat for bird and lizard.

Shading between the trunks and wriggling roots, these animals once in a while appear to seek food and water, and that is precisely when the danger awaits them.

From the opposite distance, the men on the hovering motorboat set watchful eyes with air rifles pointed forward in search of animal sightings. This place, after all, is not a natural reserves. No one was reserved about killing beings.

DSC_0648The hunting frenzy in surrounding area has become a popular holiday purpose for hobbyists from nearby big cities such as Jakarta and Bandung, riding their spiky 4-wheel vehicles with excessive light sources at the top in front of the modified freestand single seat.

Purwakarta is not known to have any forest in protection, and the remaining wilderness is of negligible wildlife variety, insomuch that one can find an abundance of natural habitat in Purwakarta open for public every day promoted as eco-tourism destination.

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Herons are prized in this area for their beauty and for their relatively sheer numbers, so told by the locals. The easy access to their living habitat through the giant reservoir, built as a part of Jatiluhur Dam, the oldest and remain as the biggest one in the country up to current date, makes them easy prey even among novice with their fancy gears.

Having meticulously observed what might be behind the outermost layer of treetops through telescope, the hunters under the warm afternoon sun were desperate to catch a tiny movement.

Just when one thought that there was nothing in there, a random shot scared a pair of herons away and they flew over the discontented faces who watched them disappeared to the far horizon.

The pack of hunters on the drifting boat realised that they would have to let go of them and focus on other sitting preys. There were still many left to shoot at, but they got nothing until sun set.

Jatiluhur Dam took a total area of 8,300 hectares in Purwakarta, having played a vital role in watering over 242,000 hectares of agricultural field, producing 187 megawatt electricity for the region from 6 turbines, preventing flood on wet season and drought on dry season.

Local government’s initiative to clamp down on the excess of fishing activities-many had trespassed into the turbines zone-and unruly settlement on the embankment, has taken place in the past several months. Click to read The village in a reservoir.

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Fishing for rent along the foothill that forms the surrounding environment of Jatiluhur Dam. These makeshift floating tents are unregulated, polluting the reservoir which is used to supply water to tap water facility. Fifty years after its construction, the dam is a rich ecology that draws human exploitation. Many view this a boon following Jatilihur Dam construction.

The village in a reservoir

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The floating village and their fish cages form a permanent sight at the open water embankment of Jatiluhur Dam, severing its function as a water supply for consumption to as far as Jakarta.

Indonesia’s first and biggest dam gets into more critical condition each year as the waste from fish farm continues to accumulate and the illegal population sprawled out of control to its peak at some thirty thousands, a number that had caught the governor’s attention, vowing to reduce it to the accepted quota at 4,000.

The quota assumption was based on the number of households who are deprived of their farming activities following the dam completion in 1967.

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This apparently has taught the local authorities to rule out fish cage as a compensation for farmland during the inundation of the newly built Jatigede Dam in Sumedang, West Java, the country’s second biggest at the size of nearly 5,000 hectares, this August.

The generation half a century apart has come to learn the aggravating impact of fish cage to dam pollution, water incapacity and the hazard in operating the power turbines.

There are 28 villages reported to be eradicated to make way for Jatigede Dam, a huge social impact affecting some tens of thousands of people.

The important lesson is that to handle such crucial infrastructure and make it work as what it is originally planned for requires great responsibility.

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Tap water for all

Despite its critical condition, Jatiluhur Dam has not given up on its initial purpose: to become a vital source of water consumption for the immensely populated capital city, 70 kilometers away, plus the surrounding industrial areas of Bekasi, Karawang, to agricultural areas such as Subang and Indramayu.

Thus the plan to build two tap water facilities or the so-called Sistem Penyediaan Air Minum (SPAM) Jatiluhur goes on. It was part of the national commitment to Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), in which it demands tap water access to over 68 per cent population by this year, and ultimately for all in 2019.

It has produced nearly one million cubic meters of fresh water in 2015, part of it goes to bottled water industry consumed today, and is expected to double in the next two years.

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Agriculture backbone

Jatiluhur Dam took a total area of 8,300 hectares in Purwakarta, having played a vital role in watering over 242,000 hectares of agricultural field, producing 187 megawatt electricity for the region from 6 turbines, preventing flood on wet season and drought on dry season.

Bandung was the first city to get supplied by the electricity from this dam in 1965, followed by Jakarta in 1966. Additional power generators added 32 megawatt supply since 1981.

Some 5,000 population from 14 villages had to be relocated to compensate for all the merits brought by the construction of what is also named the Ir. H. Djuanda dam, owing to the role of the country’s ex prime minister’s role in the project.

The initiative to clamp down on the excess of fishing activities-many had trespassed into the turbines zone-and unruly settlement on the embankment, has taken place in the past several months. Even the neighborhood self-regulated cleaning activities had made it into the news in March this year.

West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan has reiterated early this year that there will be no fish cage in Jatigede’s reservoir.

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105 meters tall, 1.2 kilometers long, its reservoir contained 2.4 billion cubic meters of water, Jatiluhur Dam’s construction began in 1957 during the ruling era of Indonesia’s first president Soekarno. It took ten years to complete and remains the biggest dam in the country.