Kampung Kobong (Chimney Village)

Kampung Kobong, people call it, since the place sprouts so many smoke-belching chimneys (kobong means chimney in Javanese) from fish smoking sheds. Located at the Bandarharjo subdistrict, Semarang, the smoking sheds were built decades ago, the largest group of such industry in Semarang.
Smoke starts billowing from 50 fish smoking sheds at 7 AM and goes on until 4 PM. Manyung fish, purchased for Rp 8000-10,000 a kilo, soaks in the smoke. The fish are first cut up and washed, then skewered with a lidi--the stiff vein of coconut leaf, bought at Rp 5000 a kilo--to keep the pieces from breaking when dried in the sun. After drying in the sun for an hour, the fish are smoked in coconut shell fire--the coconut shell coal was bought for Rp 10,000 a sack.
The smoking process takes 10 hour and the fish are flipped from side to side to keep from getting scorched. The smoked fish are then collected by sellers who bring them to the market or restaurants, where they sell for Rp 500 apiece. A smoker's income varies from day to day because the sellers return the fish they cannot market.
This home industry churns out 7.85 ton of smoked fish a day, but the poor infrastructure and facilities in Bandarharjo limit its development. Though the smoke from coconut shell poses the risk of eye damage and acute respiratory infection, the workers are not provided with a face mask. Their only source of water is a shallow well near the river. Solid wastes like fish guts and wash water are thrown into the sewer, which gives off a tremendous reek.
Some 200 workers toil in the smoke sheds, locals who have worked for dozens, even tens of years. Many of them manage to send their children to high school, even universities, but now some of them are worried because their children show no inclination to continue the fish smoking business which has given them a living and is part of the history of Kampung Obong. (Jakarta Globe/Afriadi Hikmal)