Outside Southeast Asia, few
people know of Palembang, a city on Sumatra, the sixth largest island in
the world. A gloomy and immense city, with almost two million
inhabitants, most of them living in cramped and squalid conditions.
The tropical River Musi bisects the city, a desperately polluted
waterway, bordered by slums built on stilts and a few old colonial
buildings. Vessels of all types use the Musi, hauling everything that
can be sold abroad or to the rest of Indonesia. The river is jammed with
enormous barges filled with coal, oil tankers, makeshift boats carrying
palm oil fruit bunches, as well as countless ships carrying timber.
Plunder is done openly; there is no attempt to conceal it.
Ms. Isna Wijayani, a Professor at Bina Darma University in Palembang, laments on the situation.