Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Why do we ‘hate’ our rivers?

This Friday’s seminar is Stephen Dobb’s study on the river (or creek as he calls it.. :D…) of Singapore. He explained the functions of this river in Singapore with all the historical backgrounds around it. He described that many caf├ęs, business and entertainment areas and amusement parks are built along this river which make it alive and look prosperous. Off course his point is not to promote Singapore and its river but all the difficulties related to freedom of press, speech and academic in Singapore when he did his study about the river.
All and all but it is the functions of that river which really struck me. I’ve never been to Singapore (one day I’ll go there) but I’ve seen other place where rivers are really developed nicely. 150 m from my now so called home, there is a beautiful playground where you can find a place to let your children roam free and free of charge. 50 m from that ground, there is a bird sanctuary and 100 m ahead there are two small jetties where the children and adults can simply enjoy; one small coffeeshop for a glass of hot chocolate or coffee; and many benches where people can sit down and enjoy the view.
Stephen’s story about the river made me think back about our river(s). A couple of years back then (thanks to PMLP), I joined a river cruise/excursion. We had two boats cruised along Banjir Kanal Barat river. A great experience but with very sad feeling at heart. To be honest, and it was true that the river was so dirty, full of trashes. The river smelled terriblly. It was so muddy. From the river, it was not beautiful view but ‘disgusting’ view of the city. Only on the way back when I faced the sea, I could enjoy the view of afternoon horizon.
I know that it is not fair to compare the river I enjoy in Crawley with the river I (did not) enjoy in Semarang. But I want to point put that it is our attitude toward the river(s) which matters. Somehow I feel that we do not love our rivers. It is not only the matter of throwing and dumping garbages and trashes to the river but the fact that we do not “LOVE” it. We only use it. It is there for us to take for granted. We never take our time to enjoy and love them. We do not treat them as something to enjoy but something to use and abuse. And it’s bad and sad.
While many houses along the Swan Rivers here are built deliberately to face the river (they are called Riverside houses; and they are expensive to rent and to buy), many houses along our rivers are built with their ‘back’ facing the river (as I also saw in Lasem). For me, it is as if we turn our back on the rivers, our rivers. Do we hate or do we feel ashamed to see our own rivers? Or else? I wonder why.


Ps. Thames river in London is a very busy, and highly polluted (I think) river surrounded mostly with working-class neighbourhood; added with a very gloomy atmosphere of London at winter certainly did not promise anything beautiful to see. Yet when I happened to pass it by, it was beautifully dark and gloomy with yellowish reflection of streetlamps. Meaning that it was enjoyable in its own sense. Lasem river was also enjoyable. I cruised along the river with pak TR and pak Adhy, some spots offered gorgeous views look like European-style playgrounds (some photos can be seen in the Java Institute website).