Indonesia: Jakarta’s poor forced to scrimp on costly water

Jesslyn Angelia, The Jakarta Post 18 Dec 15;

An important part of Udin’s daily routine involves buying 20-liter containers of water from a city vendor. “We spend more than Rp 350,000 on water every month,” he said. “I am retired so my son-in-law, who works at the harbor, provides for my daughter, her two sons and I”.

Udin, who lives in Muara Baru, North Jakarta, says that he buys three containers of water everyday, each costing him Rp 4,000. “We use the water for everything; to wash, to shower, to drink,” he explained.

The government has estimated that middle-income households use an average of 180 liters of water per person per day. Meanwhile, barely able to afford their three 20-liter containers per day, Udin’s family of five are careful with their costly water.

Muhammad Reza Sahib, national coordinator at the People’s Coalition for the Right to Water (KRuHA) said that groundwater quality had been deteriorating in Jakarta, especially in North, Central and West Jakarta.

“The quality of groundwater continues to deteriorate because of a lack of effort to improve the catchment area. New areas that have been opened, by way of evictions, are being covered in concrete and rivers that are said to have been normalized have been destroyed by concrete. Land in Jakarta is increasingly porous while pressure from the ocean is strengthening, causing intrusion,” he said.

The combination of seawater intrusion, the contamination of bodies of water and groundwater, the delay in conversion of piped drinking water and the extraction of ground water by wealthy groups, malls, hotels, buildings had caused a cost increase in areas where groundwater quality was worsening, said Reza.

According to the World Bank Group’s water and sanitation program, in Jakarta, the average price of water purchased through vendors is Rp 25,000 to 40,000 per cubic-meter, which in turn means that, for their daily needs, poor households in the city have been spending an estimated 13 to 25 percent of their income on water.

The Ministerial Regulation No. 23/2006 on water rates adjustment states that a household should not have to spend more than 4 percent of its income on water necessary for daily use.

Like many others, Udin and his family have been left with no choice but to spend an increasing amount of money on water in order to fulfill their basic daily water requirements. Most coastal areas in North Jakarta have no access to piped water and shallow groundwater wells have been affected by saltwater intrusion.

Those low-income households with access to piped water are only charged Rp 1,575 per cubic-meter of water. With piped water, Mulyana, who lives in Kedoya in West Jakarta, says that she spends an average of Rp 26,000 per month.

The two water operators in the city, PT Aetra Air Jakarta and PT PAM Lyonnaise Jaya (PALYJA) serve only 60 percent of the city’s residents.

The rest of the population depends on groundwater from community wedge wells, water vendors and private networks connected to deep wells.

“The quality of groundwater continues to deteriorate because of a lack of effort to improve the catchment area.”

Water specialist Firdaus Ali said that 89.7 percent of shallow groundwater (less than 60 meters deep) in Jakarta was contaminated with domestic waste. “Shallow groundwater has a high chance of being contaminated. We don’t have a good sanitation system, we only have septic tanks and they are not designed to be safe,” Firdaus added.

“Contamination is highly likely if septic tanks aren’t built well,” said Bawa Sarasa, the head of the Jakarta Environmental Management Agency’s (BPLHD) groundwater and wastewater management. BPLHD has reported that 41 percent of wells used by households are less than 10 meters from septic tanks.

Moreover, the lack of green space in the city hampers the renewal of shallow groundwater in Jakarta. “There is very little surface left for absorption,” Bawa emphasized.

PALYJA spokesperson, Meyritha Maryanie claims that from 1998 onward it recorded a 100 percent growth in customers and that most growth came in the form of low-income households. Currently, 20 percent of Palyja’s customers are low-income households, according to Meyritha.

The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post.

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