Indonesia: Water crisis hits Klaten — formerly the country’s rice bowl

Ganug Nugroho Adi The Jakarta Post 15 Aug 16;

Once known as one of the country’s rice bowls, Klaten in Central Java, has been experiencing a water crisis that has started affecting rice fields in many districts across the regency.

Some 3,000 hectares of farm land in the regency are estimated to have suffered from drought during the second planting season this year. They are spread in the districts of Kemalang, Karangnongko, Jatinom, Pedan, Cawas and Bayat.

“For the last two months, people have been facing difficulties to get clean water as wells and water reservoirs are drying up. Some wells have even completely dried out,” Taryono, 57, of Tlogowatu, Kemalang, said.

The lack of rainfall in the last two months contributed to the drought in that area.

The impact of the water crisis was evident in the agricultural sector. Farmer Jarwanto, 45, of Deles subdistrict, Kemalang, said most of the rice plants in his region were currently about a month old so they need plenty of water for their growth.

Due to a shortage of irrigation water, farmers had to queue to get their turns for water from the local irrigation canals.

“Most of the irrigation canals have dried out because of a lack of rainfall so the water flow has to be well managed,” said Jarwanto, adding that local farmers could only irrigate their fields every Thursday and Friday and had to pay Rp 15,000 (US$1.14) to do it.

Moreover, Taryono said some wells belonging to locals still contain water in them, but they could not be used for drinking or cooking because they were smelly and brownish yellow in color.

“The water is dirty. If we use it to wash white clothes it turns them yellowish,” said Taryono, adding that people mostly used the water to take baths.

To meet with their need for clean water, people have to pay Rp 3,000 for a 20-liter jerrycan that usually lasts for two days, Taryono said.

Based on past experience, he added, people usually had to buy clean water for Rp 150,000 to Rp 200,000 per 5,000-liter tank to meet their needs.

“Usually clean water becomes expensive during the peak dry season, but people have to buy it because they cannot rely on water donations [from the local administration],” Taryono said.

Data at the Klaten Regency Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) showed that 32 subdistricts in five districts in Klaten always experienced drought during dry seasons. Most of them were located in the northern parts of the regency on the slopes of Mount Merapi.

The agency’s prevention and preparedness division head, Joko Rukminto, said that clean water donations had been a way to deal with water scarcity in those regions. He said water had been donated since early July this year.

“At least 60 tanks of water have been sent to the affected regions. Today six more tanks of clean water are going to Kemalang and Cawas,” Joko said, Friday.

He said water that had been dropped off by the BPBD, the regency administration, regency-owned tap water company PDAM and other institutions was only a temporary solution to the recurrent water crisis.

He expressed hope that the regency administration would dig artesian wells or build water reservoirs to deal with the problem.

“Water donations cannot be a permanent solution. There has to be a long term solution, for example, by creating clean water networks from the water resources on Merapi to the people’s residential areas and building lakes or embung,” said Joko, referring to artificial lakes or reservoirs.

Joko, however, predicted that this year’s drought would not be as severe as that of the previous year because of the long rainy season. Still, he said his agency was continuing to take anticipatory measures as necessary.