Thirsty days to come for tens of thousands suffering in water crisis

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Tens of thousands of people across Indonesia are suffering from the water crisis caused by the current long drought.

Data from the National Disaster Mitigation Agency shows the regions hardest hit by the water crisis include Java, Bali and East Nusa Tenggara.

Last year, there was a water deficit for seven months through the dry season and surplus for five months during the rainy season.

Since 2003, up to 77 per cent of regencies and cities in Java have had a water deficit for one to eight months in a year.

At least 36 regencies experienced water deficit for at least five months in a year, according to the agency's data.

In a number of areas in Yogyakarta alone, many people are forced to buy water for their daily needs.

Those who are unwilling or unable to buy water have to walk several kilometers from their homes to fetch water from nearby dams and lakes.

"We need five jerricans [each with a capacity of 40 liters] of water to cook, take a bath and wash clothes," Sarjiyem, a resident of Mangunan Dlinggo, Bantul, said Wednesday.

It takes an average of half a day for Sarjiyem to walk the two kilometers along arduous paths in hilly areas to get the water.

"I'm forced to fetch water four times a day," she said, adding she did not have any alternative since she needs it every day.

Rubiyah, another resident, said the local administration dropped water by tanker at times, but she could not rely on it.

"We have to buy a tank of water for Rp 120,000 [S$15.74] for two week's consumption," she said.

Both Sarjiyem and Rubiyah said that if rains do not fall within a month, dams and lakes would dry up.

At the peak of the dry season in September or October, residents have been forced to sell belongings, like cattle and logs, to buy water.

Mangunan village head Poniyat admitted his subordinates invited the tankers to drop water in his village, where over 1,000 people live. "But it cannot be done every day," he said.

Thousands of people in dozens of nearby villages have suffered from the crisis.

Agriculture Minister Suswono said Monday that the drought in various provinces had caused harvest failures.

He said affected farmland currently stood at 127,000 hectares. "As much as 75 per cent of the area has already faced harvest failure," said Suswono.

The water crisis has also been felt by thousands of residents of Gunungkidul regency which consist mainly of limestone hills.

In order to meet water demand, the local administration has intensified the deployment of water trucks.

"We've calculate water supplies will drop until the end of October," head of the Gunungkidul Social Service, Manpower and Transmigration Office head Dwi Warno Widi Nugroho said.

Dwi Warno said during the drought which has become a routine, annual phenomenon, Rp 522.5 million was spent to send water by truck for three months.

Similar events took place last year when around 10 per cent of zones in Java experienced a late rainy season, at least in December, while the other islands experienced it in between October and November.