Contaminated Wells: Yogyakarta, Central Java

Most travellers are aware of the importance of health when touring around. It is also important that you obtain a Hepatitis A & B vaccination even before you travel to your destination. Even though it is not a sure-fire prevention against diseases contracted by food handled with dirty hands, unsanitary conditions and unboiled water, it will help you to a certain degree. There is nothing worse than copping a case of the ‘belly’ when you are on your holidays.

I was reading an article by Slamet Susanto about the contaminated well in Yogyakarta. It seems that the E.coli virus is rampant there. This little bugga can cause all sorts of problems with the body and put you on your back for quite some time unless treated properly:

About 90 percent of wells in Yogyakarta that serve as residents’ main source of drinking water are contaminated by Escherichia coli bacteria. Research conducted by the Yogyakarta Health Agency and the Yogyakarta Environmental Agency (DLH) also found 49.51 percent of the 19,714 wells in Yogyakarta contained dangerous substances.

“We believe the high contamination is caused by traditional septic tanks that are mostly built near the wells,” said DLH head of waste management, Suyana, at a forum on Yogyakarta sanitation.

He said the high level of contamination prevented his office from wiping out the bacteria. “It is very dangerous because a diarrhea outbreak caused by E. coli can spread easily, anytime,” he said.

He said the poor conditions were exacerbated by the waste problem in the city. Of 300 tons of garbage produced in the city each day, only 82 percent could be processed by the garbage dump center. Suyana said the mayoral administration planed to establish communal septic tanks at a number of residential sites to prevent the bacteria’s spread.

A public outreach and communication specialist of USAID’s Environmental Services Program, Akbar Ario Digdo, agreed the contamination was due to the proximity of wells and septic tanks.

“(Residents) never check whether the septic tank is still in good condition or already broken,” Akbar said. He called the administration’s plan to build communal septic tanks “a good idea”.

“But the administration has to encourage residents to join the program. “Most people who live near the communal septic tanks are poor, (and) it is not easy for them to install pipes, linking their toilets to the communal septic tanks.”