Indonesia in Grip of a Water Shortage

Jakarta Globe Jakarta Globe 22 Sep 14;

Jakarta. Hundreds of villages across Indonesia are facing a clean water crisis as dry season sets in in earnest following a drawn-out rainy season.

In East Nusa Tenggara, one of the country’s poorest provinces, residents in 170 villages in 17 districts have been forced walk dozens of kilometers to fetch clean water for cooking and washing.

“All the water sources are dried up because of the dry season,” Tini Thadeus, the head of the provincial disaster mitigation agency, or BPBD, said on Sunday.

“People must walk long distances to find water. Or else they have to buy it at an expensive rate.”

Nearly 40,000 people in the province are facing a water crisis, according to the BPBD.

Private operators are going around the villages selling water from tanker trucks, at a cost of Rp 5,000 (42 US cents) a liter.

“Such a crisis can only be tackled by getting a water supply from other regions,” Tini said.

For now, authorities in East Nusa Tenggara have requested Rp 15 billion in emergency funding from the central government in Jakarta to address the crisis.

Tini said the money would be used to drill hundreds of wells throughout the province.

“All we can do is wait for our funding request to be approved. Until then, we will try to cope with the problem ourselves,” he said.

The water shortage has also taken a heavy toll on rice cultivation in the province, with no water available for irrigation. Farmers in 16 of 22 districts and cities in the province have reported a failed harvest.

Several districts in East Java, Central Java and West Java as well as in Sumatra have been facing similar problems.

In Malang, East Java, residents in a number of villages have asked for water to be trucked in from other areas.

Hafie Lutfi, the head of East Java BPBD, said that more subdistricts were facing a clean water crisis.

“Even those that have never faced a water shortage before are now asking for water shipments,” he said.

On Madura Island, off the East Java mainland, reported that as many as 262 villages in three districts were facing a water shortage. Residents in those villages have complained in particular about the inability to water their crops.

Meanwhile, hundreds of villages in Kudus and Banjarnegara districts in Central Java are facing similar problems, while reported that residents in least eight subdistricts in Garut, West Java, have been unable to get access to water for their daily needs.