“The three of us are people who live on the bank of Ciberang River, a tributary of Ciujung River. The flow of the river has been small now. We invite Mr. Regent to come and accompany the residents’ event in the dry season of taking fish in Ciberang River. We hope that you could come. The area of the river where the fish are going to be taken is located on the right of Buluheun Village which is already famous for a lot of fish. If you agree, then the residents of Hamberang Village will soon be asked to prepare sapan (the tool to take the fish). We will lead the fish in the upstream to get into the sapan’s hole. You can see directly the process of taking the fish from the river while sightseeing.”
Then the Regent answered, “I accept your request very well. Thank you. But I do not really like to accompany people taking fish in the river. Usually people who take fish in the river like to cheat and like to hide their haul. I guess perhaps they are afraid that the fish have to be divided equally among their friends who do not get the fish. I feel sorry for the ones who do not get the fish.”
One of them replied, “About that problem, you do not have to worry, I, who own the leuwi (riverbed) area will inform all the villagers who take the fish that they should collect the fish they get and show them to us. Later they can be divided equally to the residents who participate in catching the fish.”
“In that case, yes, I will participate in catching the fish. But it must be on Sunday,” said the Regent.
“If there is no problem, how about this Sunday? After we go from here, we all want to immediately make the sapan. Once it is completed, we will remind you that this Sunday you will come with us to catch the fish in the river,” said one of the residents with whom the Regent agreed.
The three residents of Hamberang Village left the office of Kawedanaan (Regency office) immediately. The villagers rejoiced in the arrival of the Regent who would participate in catching the fish. Sapan was immediately made and the long-awaited time had arrived. The Regent came with his entourage bringing sapan, mingling with the people, getting down to the river. The crowd was boisterous and all came down to the river. The dry season indeed made only a little river flow. The residents of the village easily took the fish because the river was only ankle-deep of an adult.
The excessive joy and greed then arose. Some residents threw the haul to the ruyuk (bushes) on the right and left of the river. This was a way to trick the Regent so that the fish that should have been collected and divided did not exist. After the event was over, they would take the fish in ruyuk.
The residents and the Regent who were in the downstream were confused. Their eyes stared at the murky water for a long time. They did not see the fish, let alone catching it. The confusion had not been disappeared yet when suddenly a resident appeared from the upstream and immediately told the Regent, while showing him the direction of the location of the crowd of residents in the upstream, that there would never be a fish in the downstream because the people who caught the fish in the upstream threw the haul to the bushes.
Hearing this, the Regent then stood on a rock. The Regent looked at the people who threw the fish to the ruyuk. He did not do anything to those people. The Regent felt sorry for people who had tried to catch the fish, but did not get any, especially, the unfortunate people in the downstream. He folded both his arms across his chest. The Regent muttered, “Hey, Rock! If you have a spirit in you, please bring them flood so that all residents who catch the fish will run ashore!!”
After saying this, the Regent and his assistants went from the rock toward Buluheun Village. Suddenly the sky was dark and the rain fell with the wind. The rumble of the flood was heard from the upstream that made everyone who was catching the fish was shock and ran ashore. Many people lost their fishing tools because they did not have the time to carry them. Because of that big flood, the fish that were thrown to the ruyuk were also swept away by floods to the middle of the river. All residents who had caught the fish in the river could only bite their fingers. In front of the citizens, the Regent said, “That’s the proof when a man is too greedy because he wants to live alone in the world!”
***This flood story may not give a full explanation of the disaster in the past. Especially as a reference to find out about the profound impact of the flood condition of Ciujung River during the Dutch rule in Lebak. There were many other texts that I got from De Banten-Bode (1928-1930) newspapers which could be a special study of the function and usefulness of Ciujung River. Those newspapers that were published by the Dutch in Banten were spread over several districts. Besides becoming the distributor of information and propaganda tool, they had big impact to humanitarian issues to economics and politics. Usually, they recruited and hired the natives to write in the newspaper as a report on the situation in the hinterland.
De Banten-Bode newspaper also provided a special column for the Regents in Banten. Among the findings was the text of an open letter of the elected Lebak Regent at that time, Gondosapoetro. The writing gave a highest praise to Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch government in Banten. Still in his writing, he wrote about Ciujung River flood in 1929. The floods caused many diseases and destruction of farm lands and rice fields. The suffering of people of Banten was getting worse because the ruling government raised the high taxes instead. The Dutch government itself had tried to control the river by making a dam in Pamarayan in 1905. This effort had not been quite successful because the streamflow was getting bigger and uncontrollable when the rainy season came each year.
On the other hand, the Dutch government saw other functions of waters or rivers in Banten, especially Ciujung River, Lebak, by trying to speed up and to make another choice of transporting agricultural produce from Lebak to the port of Banten, then, to create systems of transportation of goods from Lebak to the port by making a long and wide road. However, since it was not possible to transport all the goods by land, an alternative to expand the land transport track by making small boats that were useful for going across the hills and down the river into Lebak was made. But the issue of the uncontrollable flow of the river in the rainy and dry seasons made the transportation difficult which later became a serious challenge which had not been thought by the Dutch before.
My shallow knowledge which is still fragile in reading Indonesian text history book written by Denis Lombard, Claude Guillot and Husaen Djayadiningrat, has not made me find the text source yet which specifically did the historical research on the function of Ciujung River during the colonial era and earlier. In my opinion, the advantage of the use of Ciujung river flow as a transportation line in the Dutch colonial period, was not only to reduce land transport costs, but also especially because of the idea of using the waterway had already been existing from the royal era of Banten.
With all the limitations, the control of Ciujung River should have become homework for Local Government and Provincial Government of Banten. However, the fact is sometimes both sides point at each other. While the Pamarayan Dam becomes the only dam to control the river, in recent years the Ciujung streamflow has often been reaching the threshold of capacity of the dam which results in disaster every year. Plus the government of Banten does not have equipment to measure sea level accurately when the rainfall in the upstream is high. The annual flood problem sometimes costs the lives, properties and extensive damage. The current of the river destroys anything it passes, from plots of land, trees, bridges, irrigation canals to the houses on the bank of the river. The sound of the flood at night could be heard like the roar of the aircraft engine.
Summarizing the information from the thesis made by Rizal Zaenal Mutaqin of Kajian Pengendalian Banjir Das Ciujung (The Flood Control Study of Ciujung River Drainage Basin), Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, 2014, the problem of flood in Ciujung River has been being recorded since 1977 until today. In the last decade it was on January 13 to 15, 2012. During the Suharto administration, Ciujung River became the special concern of the Central Government. The only dam that had been built by the Dutch in Pamarayan was rebuilt. Meanwhile, the former dam building was used as a cultural heritage. The position of Pamarayan Dam was in the administrative border of Lebak and Serang Regency. It was between Rangkasbitung and Kragilan District and it was used to meet the needs of irrigation and raw water, it was also functioned as an early warning system against floods.
Some irrigation development projects were constructed in several parts of Lebak area which were adjacent to the tributary. The purpose of this irrigation was, besides reducing the streamflow which flowed into Ciujung River, also to irrigate the fields. After the change of power, this project stopped and the irrigation building became neglected. Massive flood in January 2012 became the most reviews of Banten local media, such as Kabar Banten and Radar Banten. These two newspapers of Pikiran Rakyat Group and Jawa Pos Group got many subscribers each year. The contents were diverse, from those caused by the overflow of the three major tributaries, in the upstream to the flood victims. Not infrequently, those newspapers wrote reviews which became critical, judging on who should be responsible, who was to blame. Also sometimes, they mentioned it in the opinions, it was because of the mistake made by the community themselves, the government, the businessmen and the mismanagement of the drainage basin. The impact would later spread, becoming health issues, economic, political, social, educational and local culture which would not be finished.
***When I clarified the issue of the relocation project of the residential area on the bank of Ciujung River to the Lebak Government, it turned out there were only two institutions of many institutions involved in the project, which agreed to exchange information. The two institutions that were willing to provide the information were BAPPEDA (Development Planning Board) and the Water Agency of Lebak. They asked me not to insert the data of the project in the writing. I got the oral information from one of the employees of Water Agency that this project plan had already been fixed and it was planned to be completed in 2017. His explanation seemed to want to make sure that I believed that what he described was good for residents of Lebak.
“In the future, people who come from Jakarta to Lebak who use the train will clearly see the view of the bank and beautiful Ciujung River from the station. The regulation is clear, you can’t build a building 20 meters from the bank of the river. We’ve done the measurement of evicted land each year, planting stakes. Sometimes, we human beings feel sad to hear about opinion of stories in the field. Just imagine, a grandfather talked and asked if this place had been feared by the residents, many snakes and ghosts. People were afraid to pass through it since it was haunted and creepy, let alone building a house. Why had the government let the view of the river bank neglected for decades? Now that this place is clean and comfortable to be passed through even to be lived on, we are evicted instead,” told one of the employees of Water Agency of Lebak.
In a separate place, the employee of BAPPEDA gave information at his residence, “The residential area along the bank of the Ciujung River will be relocated to the rumah susun (low-cost flat) which will be provided by the government. According to the plan, this project has existed for long and should have been started in Regent Jaya Baya’s term of office. The process was delayed because it needed profound social and environmental impact studies. The obstacle is not about the approval of citizens, but about cultural adaptation of us who are accustomed to have a house and ownership land. It’s not an easy thing to get used to stay in the rumah susun. There will be a lot of shifting behavior and habits in the future. We live in a local area here, not a metropolitan. The idea of this project is not just only to build houses and to move, but how to organize the city well. The government does not want the experience of the relocation happens again where in the end the residents moved back and built houses again on the bank of the Ciujung River. The set plan of this project is for the benefit of the society of Lebak, actually! If the city is good, the houses are orderly and the river is clean, who will benefit?”
De Banten-Bode, 1920_11_January_No.02_7e JAARGanG_Page 03_Column 03
De Banten-Bode, 1930_01_August_No.31_7e JAARGANG_Page 02_Column 4-5
Kajian Pengendalian Banjir DAS Ciujung, Rizal Zaenal Mutaqin, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, 2014, uploaded by http://etd.repository.ugm.ac.id/
Old Newspaper Archive_National Library