Water Crisis in Jakarta – Indonesia

A friend of mine who is staying in West Java told me that for the past 3 weeks it had been totally dry days; not a single drop of rain has fallen from the sky. The well in her home has dry up and so twice a day, she needs to walk about 1/2 km to collect water. Alternatively you can also buy water from these mobile water vendors who sells water for about RP700 per 20 litre containers. Hopefully, the rain will come and fill up the wells with water. This will bring reliefs to the thousands who are affected by this water shortage.
In many parts of Indonesia, there seems to be a water crisis looming. I find it hard to understand that Indonesia with its huge amount of resources which includes water, could be facing a water crisis. This is especially so in the capital city – Jakarta. But water crisis is not unique to Indonesia. It is a global problem that includes countries like China, India, Australia, Africa and many other countries. In fact one of out six people in the world lack access to safe drinking water. That means that more than a BILLION people do not have access to safe drinking water.

The city of Jakarta has a population of more than 10 million people. This figure is growing every year, mainly due to the migration of people from other parts of Indonesia into the capital. Jakarta is facing a water crisis as the demand for clean water outstripped supply. People still relies heavily on underground water. However many wells are now dry or polluted. Pollution of underground water is due to poor sanitation system in the city. Waste water is being mixed with water from the wells. Sea water is also seeping in into the underground aquifers, polluting the wells.

In a water crisis, it is the poor people that suffers the most. It is the poor that needs to allocate a larger portion of their income to buy clean water from these mobile water vendors. People from high income groups can well afford to pay for their water needs. Many squatters relies on well water to wash and bath. However, the pollution in groundwater has cause it to be unsafe even for bathing. People staying in slums complained of rashes and itch after using groundwater for bathing.

It is time that the local government look at this problem and labeled it as Top Priority in its agenda. Water crisis is the result of imbalance between water demand and water resources. Water crisis is not because of having too little water, but it is because the Jakarta’s government has failed to develop and manage the water resources. Jakarta relies its raw water supply from Bogor, Tangerang, Bekasi and Depok. Water utilities companies can only supply 1/2 of the water supply relative to the city demand. The local government should look into developing new water resources and infrastructures. One of the successful example in which water supply is managed well is in Singapore. The Newater project is so successful in Singapore that a new plant which is going to be largest will be built in Changi. The Newater is about turning recycled water into pure drinking water. This water is currently been supplied to industries and wafer fabrication plants. The increase in supply of Newater has proved to a distinct advantage of lowering cost. Prices for Newater has dropped from $1-30 to 1-00 cubic/metre. The Jakarta’s government can certainly take a lesson from Singapore in the importance of converting recycled water into drinking water.

Water is a very limited and precious resource. The Jakarta’s government must take the leadership role and pursue the water supply programme actively. Failure to deliver this essence commodity to its people is in fact a failure of the government; it is that simple. The local authorities must also educate the people on the importance of protecting the environment. It is important that the people understand that water is not a cheap resource, that anyone who uses water must pay for it. However, for those who are poor, the local administration could look into a subsidy program to make water more affordable.

There should be no more excuses such as the lack of funds or budget from the authorities. Having clean drinking water and proper sanitation is paramount to Jakarta social and economic needs. It is time for the Jakarta’s government to walk the talk.