Water Still Poisonous: Jakarta, West Java

Studies have shown most of Jakarta’s ground water is polluted with E. Coli and Coliform which can cause diarrhea and life-threatening cholera. Jakarta’s water operators still do not have connections to a lot of the city so many residents use wells and have no access to clean water.

The 2006 Human Development Report said the urban poor spend more than others on water by either buying bottled water or raw water in jerricans.

The report said this socioeconomic group needed then to spend more of their budget on kerosene to boil jerrican water to ensure it was safe for consumption.

“This is the dilemma … the government should invest more on clean water access for the people, but due to budget constraints … (from the) bureaucracy, people should take the initiative to provide themselves with clean water,” Rieneke Rolos, deputy project director for the Aman Tirta (Safe Water System) program said.

Rieneke spoke at a seminar which was part of a one-day conference on Indonesia’s water problems held by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The USAID seminar was held in conjunction with the Indo Water 2007 conference and exhibition at the Jakarta Convention Center.

Aman Tirta is a partnership between Johns Hopkins University, CARE and PT Tanshia Consumer Products and is coordinated by USAID.

Aman Tirta produces Air RahMat, a concentrate of sodium hypochlorite that allows households to clean their water without first boiling it.

Rieneke said water in West Timor refugee camps and tsunami-hit Aceh that had been treated with Air RahMat was 47 percent less likely to be polluted and 85 percent less likely to cause diarrhea.

“A household spends approximately Rp 60,000 (US$6.4) a month to boil water, but a bottle of Air Rahmat worth Rp 5,000 is enough for to create one month’s worth of clean water for consumption,” Rieneke said.

Arum Wulandari from the Emmanuel Foundation introduced through the water seminar a system called Sodis — or solar disinfection — which she said was an alternative to household water management.

“It’s basically using abundant ultra violet rays to kill micro-organisms polluting the water,” she said.

It was already being used in six locations in Jakarta and earthquake-stricken Yogyakarta and the new system had proven itself effective in efforts to clean the water, she said.

“In our research in Jakarta last year, no E. Coli was detected in water treated with Sodis,” Arum said.

Zainal Nampira from the water treatment and sanitation department at the Health Ministry said it was time for households to be aware of all the options available.

“We need to work together to broaden public knowledge on hygienic, easy and less-expensive ways to treat water for consumption,” he said.

“This will also ease the effort to achieve our Millennium Development Goal (MDG).”

In 1990 just 45 percent of Indonesia had access to clean water for consumption and access to sanitation facilities. MDG requires Indonesia to increase this to 72.5 percent before 2015.

Facts on water and sanitation

— A 2004 study of 48 wells in Jakarta found most of the wells contained coliform and fecal coli bacteria. By June, some 63 percent of the wells exceeded safe coliform levels. That figure rose to 67 percent by October. (Friends of the Earth Indonesia, www.walhi.or.id)

— Almost 80 percent of Indonesians use water sources that are likely to be contaminated with bacteria. Most water sources in Indonesia are constructed without considering the minimum distance to septic tanks. (February 2004, Indonesia Development Report for the Millennium Development Goals)

— Due to bad sanitation, some 100,000 toddlers in Indonesia die every year. (World Bank, Water and Sanitation Program: Urban Sanitation, Portrait, Hope and Opportunities)

— In Indonesia, only 64 percent of people have access to basic sanitation. Seventy-eight percent of these people live in large cities, while 22 percent are in rural areas. This figure does not indicate ownership of sanitation means. It only shows the percentage of people with access to basic sanitation, whether public or privately owned. It also does not show the condition of the sanitation facilities. (February 2004, Indonesia Development Report for the Millennium Development Goals)

— As of 2006, the government’s investment in sanitation was a mere Rp 200 per person per year. An investment increase in sanitation infrastructure to Rp 51,254 per person per year would boost people’s production 34 to 79 percent, reduce health costs by 6 to 19 percent, and cut medicine costs 2 to 5 percent (World Bank, Sanitation: Urban Sanitation, Portrait, Hope and Opportunities)

Indonesia only has 11 cities that have centralized sanitation systems. These are Balikpapan, Banjarmasin, Cirebon, Denpasar, Jakarta, Medan, Surakarta, Tangerang and Yogyakarta. (Bappenas and Water and Sanitation Program, the World Bank: Urban Sanitation, Portrait, Hope, and Opportunities)

— Water companies only serve around 40 percent of urban households. The rest use other sources such as wells or water vendors. In rural areas, water companies only serve 10 percent of households. (Indonesia, Averting an Infrastructure Crisis: A Framework for Policy and Action; 2004)

— Per year, economic losses related to poor sanitation reach Rp 4.23 trillion, or equal to 2 percent of total GDP. This figure also equals Rp 100,000 per household per year

— Of 50 million urban poor who do not have clean water connections, six million pay very high rates to water vendors outside water companies. They can pay up to Rp 25,000 per cubic meter of water, Rp 23,000 more expensive than the water company’s rate of Rp 2,000.

Source: USAID

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