As I mentioned in my last post, the Borneo river we traveled is not safe to drink. In addition to its use for washing and as a sewer, there are fairly extensive gold mining operations in the river. A typical gold mining barge:
As you can tell, like the fishing boats, these are handmade. Very ingenious devices. The motors pump the silt from the bottom of the river over the chute at the of the barge. The heavier sentiments sift out, and I am told are subsequently treated with mercury to leach out the gold. Sometimes you will see a flotilla of barges operating together:
Needless to say, this in not the most environmentally freindly activity. Our guide explained that rubber prices are very low, driving more people into gold mining. The rewards are reportedly limited as minimal gold is actually collected.
The gold mining contributes to the overall impact of human activity that leaves the rivers a muddy brown color. Not safe for drinking or swimming, although locals persue the latter. Toward the end of our trip the guides treated us to a trip up a tributary into virgin forest. A clear difference:
You can see the clean water of the tributary in the foreground. It is a blackwater river, so named because it is colored black by the tannins of the decaying matter of the forest floor. In this case, the forest sits on a massive peat bog. The color is striking:
It looks like oil:
Despite its color, it was safe for swimming, which made for happy kids:
While reportedly biologically safe for drinking, its higher acidity is not good for your teeth. The guide claimed, however, that it is good for your skin.