Wednesday, March 22, 2006


    Jakarta, March 22, 2006  (ANTARA) - A live dialogue with Vice President Jusuf Kalla is quite a rare opportunity for most of Indonesia's 240 million population, and of course if any one gets the chance to talk to the vice president, he will use it to voice his urgent need.
     A poor fisherman in North Jakarta, in last year's TV live broadcast interactive dialogue with Kalla following the government's decision to increase the fuel oil price, did not ask for a new boat, or cash donation in compensation for the fuel price hike,  but 'just' clean water, which is not at all a problem for most rich people.
     But in fact, access to clean water is still a serious problem for around 100 million people in Indonesia, which ranks third in the world for the number of people lacking safe drinking water.
     Diarrhea from water-borne impurities remains the second biggest killer of children under the age of five, accounting for more than 100,000 deaths per year in this country.
     Indonesia is not alone facing the clean water problem. In 2005, only half of the world's population had water available in their homes. Around 42 percent of the world's population do not have adequate sanitation due to political, institutional and financial constraints.
     Eighty percent of all diseases in developing nations is linked to water --  diarrhea, cholera, typhoid, and polio. In fact, over one million people die every year due to malaria alone, a disease transmitted by mosquitoes that hatch their eggs in water. 
     The basic sanitation deprivation constitutes a silent humanitarian crisis that each day takes thousands of lives, robs the poor of their health, thwarts progress toward gender equality, and impedes economic development.
                                    The neglected poor
     In many developing countries, the poor always have to pay vendors more for clean water, often ten times as much as the rich. This is because the poor are often forgotten and are given the least priority in terms of access to piped water service.
     The rich in contrast, always get the privileges of almost all government-run services and infrastructure development, such as electricity and piped water network.
     In Asia alone, 1.3 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water, and more than 40 percent of the urban poor do not have piped water at home.
     "The greatest challenge today is to conserve water while meeting
people's water needs," said M|ller, former Director General of the Water Affairs and Forestry Department of South Africa.  He added that good water management can be possible if it includes other sectors, not only political.
     Along the same lines, Wouter T. Lincklaen, Asian Development Bank water resources specialist, stated that to be successful, civil society and the private sector must be included and consulted by ministers regarding water-related issues.
     The planet requires an annual investment of 11.3 billion dollars through the year 2015 if water services are to be improved, he said.
     It has been repeatedly urged that Governments must place the world sanitation crisis at the top of the national and international agenda.
     Official development aid efforts should focus on financing projects that will benefit the poor, in both rural and urban areas.
     None of governments' officials disagree with those statements, and they even echo similar statements and commitments frequently. But, yet the progress in meeting the poor's needs for clean water and basic sanitation has been very slow.

     Access to safe drinking water is a prerequisite to support the community health program and eradicate poverty, an Indonesian government official said.
     Therefore, water supply must be integrated into the government's poverty eradication and health programs, Wan Alkadri, director of environmental health of the Indonesian health ministry said recently.
     He said that the Indonesian Government's program on poverty eradication was heavy on the physical and economic sectors, while the water sector was rather neglected.
     "Degradation of water quality currently is quite serious, and will become big problem in the future if it is not dealt with properly now," he said.
     According to data from the Association of Indonesian Water Supply Companies (PERPAMSI), the coverage of their piped water supply services was estimated at only 49 percent of the total population in urban areas, and 14 percent in rural areas in 2005.
     The Public Work Ministry's Director General for housing building and planning Agoes Widjanarko said that the quality of drinking water and its delivery services have decreased lately.
     It is not surprising if the piped water service is bad given that the companies which deliver the service are facing serious financial problem.
     Of the total 318 regional drinking water companies (PDAM), around 64 percent are financially unsound, heavily indebted and have no ability to reinvest to improve their water service coverage.
     However, Public Works Minister Djoko Kirmanto said last February that the government would prioritize construction of drinking water facilities in 2006.
     "Development of the toll road and drinking water sectors will top the list of priorities in the acceleration of infrastructure development. Therefore, we will issue various policies to that effect," the minister said.
     On development of drinking water companies(PDAM), Djoko said, he would issue a policy on tariffs especially for those companies that were still applying a rate below the ideal range of Rp2,500 to Rp3,500 per cubic meter.
     Those companies, he continued, had difficulty in earning a fair return on their investment and in repaying the loans they had received.
     The government would also issue policies on irrigation and river basin river as water sources for drinking water companies.
     The policy on drinking water, Minister Djoko said, was part of efforts to reach the target in the MDG in 2015.
     The Indonesian Government has set the national target of achieving 80 per cent coverage of water supply for the urban's population, and 60 percent in rural areas by 2015.
     Water supply and sanitation are one of the five key themes being discussed at the 4th World Water Forum, which is currently going on in Mexico.
     In many international meetings and fora, government officials are often generous and quick in making commitments and promises, but in reality the flow of clean water remains very slow for most of the poor.
     For the world's poorest citizens, the right to safe water and adequate sanitation remains "a promise unfulfilled."  - end

Fardah. Jakarta, March 22, 2006. 

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