Victorian Government investment lays groundwork for living lab to transform Citarum River

The Victorian Government has awarded the The Citarum Program a grant to establish a ‘living lab’ to address pollution in the Citarum River in West Java, Indonesia. The grant is provided through the Study Melbourne Research Partnerships program, delivered through veski.

Part of the Government’s $2.8 million funding to boost international research collaboration, the grant will enable the Citarum Program to establish an international consortium to develop and test novel approaches to overcome river pollution in a section of the world’s most polluted river.

Project Director, and Director of the Informal Cities Lab at Monash University’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (MADA), Professor Diego Ramirez-Lovering is excited to use the living lab as a platform to translate research into real-world impact.

The living lab in the Citarum basin is a place-based initiative, where we will collaborate with our partners and local villages to co-design an integrated urban model that addresses river contamination caused by lack of waste and sanitation infrastructure. Our aim is to co-create waste and water solutions that incentivise new behaviours and practices, that act to restore and protect the river, and improve the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable riverine communities.

Professor Diego Ramirez-Lovering

The project, co-led by Monash University in Melbourne and Universitas Indonesia (UI) in Jakarta, will convene international research institutes, including Universitas Padjadjaran (UNPAD), CSIRO, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG) in Switzerland, as well as the West Java Environmental Agency and R&D Agency, in a multi-year program of learning and innovation.

On invitation of the West Java Government, the consortium will develop the demonstration site in a 2.6km segment of the Citarik River, an upper catchment tributary of the Citarum. Over the next 12 months, feasibility studies for circular waste and waste water systems will inform the selection of sustainable technologies and social solutions that will be demonstrated in a village in the Citarum watershed.

The project builds on Monash University’s expertise in transdisciplinary research to address wicked challenges through urban design and sustainable development. This includes the RISE program - a research program trialling an integrated approach to water and sanitation management with more than 7,000 households in 24 informal settlements in Indonesia and Fiji. Expanding this work in the Citarum basin, Monash aims to address both waste water and solid waste through integrated urban design and creating holistic solutions for informal settlements where there are no centralised waste and sanitation services.

UI and UNPAD bring local research and knowledge across governance and social science, hydrological and spatial modelling, waste management and community development.

Co-leading the Citarum project’s social feasibility study, Lecturer in the Department of Political Science at UI Dr Reni Suwarso says now is the time to move beyond conventional silos to create real impact. “The living lab will allow us to explore the social and governance conditions needed for river transformation. Our research will generate context-specific evidence, and lessons for scaling the approach across rivers in Indonesia and the Asia-Pacific.”

Project Manager Dr Jane Holden from Monash University says the veski grant is critical to activate the research objectives the project has planned. “Over the next 12 months, we will conduct feasibility studies which will inform the selection of technologies for the demonstration site.

“This living lab will showcase the possibilities of sustainable, innovative urban and river development, to ultimately propel communities towards sustainable growth.”

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