Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Kamir Raziudin Brata: Finding a holistic solution

Matheos Viktor Messakh , THE JAKARTA POST , JAKARTA | Tue, 02/17/2009 11:52 AM | People

Kamir Raziudin Brata: JP/Matheos V. MessakhKamir Raziudin Brata: JP/Matheos V. Messakh

When talking about how people treat the environment, Kamir Raizudin Brata can’t help but laugh.

The land ecology lecturer explained that he was at loss as to why many people claim to have found solutions to environmental problems when in reality they disregard environment principles in the process or simply shift the problem somewhere else.

He said it is simply not fair to blame upstream Puncak for “sending in” floods to Jakarta every year, or expect the hilly area to serve as the city’s water absorption area.

“We forget that Jakarta has its own rain and by saying ‘expect’, it means we put so much burden on a certain area, while leaving another with no burden at all,” the lecturer of the Bogor Agriculture Institute (IPB) said.

“We can’t solve enviromental problems by disregarding environmental principles. The best way to conserve the environment is to share the burden as equally as possible.”

He said that from generation to generation people only look for shortcuts to deal with environmental problems -- treating only the symptom and not the cause.

“I’m afraid we have started to believe that flooding is an oversupply of water, so that the best way to handle floods is to throw the water away somewhere else,” Kamir said.

“Flooding happens because the land has lost its capacity to absorb rainwater and we must do something to help the soil do its work better because it is human being who reduced the capacity of the soil.”

For more than 30 years Kamir has been defending his belief that the best way to conserve land and water is to let every component of the ecosystem do its part to equally share the burden of the environment.

Kamir is the inventor of the biophore absorption method, a technique which prevents flooding and conserves water by drilling holes in the ground.

The method, which he developed in 1976, his first year teaching at IPB, solves both water and waste management problems. By drilling holes no bigger than 30 centimeters wide and 100 centimeters deep, an organic waste bin is created which also increases the absorption of rainwater.

He said the method was so simple that nobody pays attention to it.

“Maybe it is because it’s so simple that people don’t believe it actually works,” Kamir said, laughing.

He said many have called his invention a simplification of water and waste problems, but nobody has successfully refuted its effectiveness.

“What I’m waiting for now is not testimony but to find the weaknesses of the method,” he said.
The man, who was born in West Java town of Cirebon on Dec. 12, 1948, said that with his invention he was trying to stick to the simple rules of soil and water conservation he learned from his former teachers.

But many people, including some of his former teachers, were upset with him for revealing that many efforts to conserve the environment have been conducted against environment principles.

“Shifting the quantity of material and energy into another part of the world will simply cut back the burden in that place but add the burden in another,” he said. “This is the environmental principle and everybody knows it.”

Just like global warming, he said, the problems can not be solved by merely depending on austerity, but have to utilize all components of the ecosystem.

“An ecosystem is a system formed with interdependency between its components. All components must be considered in any conservation effort to make sure nothing is wrong,” he said.

“We should be ashamed of ourselves for throwing our waste away to another place just because we want our place to be clean, but we just make another place dirty.

“It’s so easy to claim to be a friend of the enviroment. But throwing away waste to another place like developed countries do is no solution. What about the places that they throw their waste away to, are they not the part of environment?”

Kamir is willing to face anything to defend his ideas, including spending five and a half years to finish his master in Soil Physic at the University of Western Australia. “Although my thesis is against the mainstream, they were fair to me,” he recalled.

He also had to abandon his doctoral studies to uphold his ideas.

Being an inventor does not bring him riches and glory.

For his research, he even took up a bank loan which he still has to pay back. “My employee card is still with the bank. I still have four years to pay my debt,” he said.

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