An Indonesian clean water activist was among six environmentalists from around the world to be given the prestigious 2011 Goldman Environmental Prize. Biologist Prigi Arisandi won the award, which includes a US$ 150,000 cash award, for initiating a local movement to stop industrial pollution of the Surabaya River in East Java. The river provides drinking water to three million people.
Arisandi founded Ecological Observation and Wetlands Conservation (Ecoton) while still at university. The organisation set out to protect the water resources and wetlands ecosystems of Indonesia. Arisandi’s River Detection Program, now in more than 50 schools, teaches children how to monitor the Surabaya river’s water quality and report their findings to the government. Ecoton has since developed a national school network for river protection that promotes student participation in water quality monitoring and is partnering with the East Java Provincial Education Agency to introduce environmental curricula in schools across the province.
In addition, Arisandi has personally conducted regular investigations of waste dumping by industry operating on the river. His efforts to publicise pollution activities has forced the provincial government to enforce existing environmental laws.
In 2007, Arisandi and Ecoton sued East Java’s governor and the province’s environmental management agency for failing to control water pollution on the Surabaya River. In April 2008, the provincial court issued a precedent-setting environmental decision, ordering the governor to implement water-quality regulations targeted at industry operating along the Surabaya, establishing a maximum daily limit for toxic releases into the river as well as a monitoring system to ensure compliance. The lawsuit represents the first time in East Java that a governor has been taken to court to change government policy.
As regional press coverage of the Surabaya River’s industrial pollution continues to increase, Arisandi has entered into talks with several industrial facilities operating on the river. In turn, a Surabaya sugar factory recently invested US$220,000 in a wastewater treatment plant. The facility is now one of the most environmentally responsible factories operating on the Surabaya. Several other industrial facilities have followed suit, installing pollution controls of their own.
In 1990 San Francisco civic leaders and philanthropists Richard N. Goldman (1920-2010) and his wife, Rhoda H. Goldman (1924-1996) created the Goldman Environmental Prize. The prize is announced every April to coincide with Earth Day. Recipients are selected by an international jury from confidential nominations submitted by a worldwide group of environmental organizations and individuals. The award ceremonies take place in in San Francisco and Washington D.C., USA.