According to Cita-Citarum, an organization dedicated to the improvement of the Citarum river, the Citarum river has had a long history of textile manufacturing ever since the 4th century. It is named after a plant called tarum, which is grown in large amounts to be used as a form of dye, particularly for indigo. The Citarum river has always been established as a hub for textile production. Traditionally, batik makers used tarum in their batik textile processes and the cultivation of tarum used to be an essential part of the culture.
However, the Citarum river today is no longer a home for the tarum plant and the community no longer involve themselves in the natural processing of this plant for their dyes. Due to technological advancements, synthetic chemical dyes proved more convenient for textile producers as compared to the arduous and complicated process required to extract color from the tarum plant. These dyes and other synthetic substances have replaced tarum, despite the toxic threat. According to Greenpeace, 60% of the national textile production today happens at the Citarum river and many of the facilities in the textile industry are located near Citarum river, accounting for 46% of the entire industry.
Unfortunately, there has been little to no effort that has been done to develop more efficient ways to extract indigo from plants and the lack of natural processes has resulted in the degradation of the Citarum river.