The double threat for those who depend on the 138-kilometre-long river to bathe and wash their clothes comes as Indonesia has struggled to contain COVID-19, now with the highest death toll in Southeast Asia, and in the past week almost 3,000 new infections a day.
As the virus has spread, medical waste had been piling up at Cipeucang landfill in Tangerang, part of the sprawling metropolis of the capital Jakarta.
In May the landfill’s walls collapsed, sending tons of garbage straight into the Cisadane’s khaki green waters.
“I still worry to be honest, but I have to wash here,” local resident Eka Purwanti, 36, told Reuters, as she did her laundry in the river, and children played on the riverbank, “I hope nothing will happen, although I know it’s a deadly disease.”
Like countries around the world, Indonesia has seen the pandemic bring a huge increase in medical waste, an issue that has raised concern in places from Spain to Thailand and India.