Thursday, August 26, 2004

Complaints run high on faulty PAM service, Jakarta

Source: The Jakarta Post

Urip Hudiono, The Jakarta Post/Jakarta

After more than 80 years since the city administration managed the water service, and six years after Jakarta water company PD PAM Jaya signed a contract with two foreign firms, customers are still complaining of poor service and poor water quality.

"Out of 9,000 complaints filed each month by customers, 40 percent are about shortages," said Indonesian Drinking Water Society (MAMI) chairman, Asrul Harun.

He was speaking at a press conference on Tuesday ahead of a seminar to be held next week on city water management.

Asrul said the other complaints were pipe leakages, poor water quality, overcharging and the water companies slow response to complaints.

"An increasing number of customers also suspect that their water meters are faulty, resulting in overcharging," said Asrul.

He explained that Law No. 2/1981 on metrology stipulates all meters must be calibrated at least once in three years, which the water operators have never done.

PD PAM Jaya cooperated with British water company Thames Water International and France's Lyonnaise des Eaux, to form PT Thames PAM Jaya (TPJ) to serve customers on the eastern side of Ciliwung River and PT PAM Lyonnaise Jaya (Palyja) on the western side of the river, respectively.

The water companies claimed to have managed to reduce water losses due to leaks from some 57 percent in 1998 to 47 percent this year. They employ a water rate system that does not exclude the leaking water and is automatically raised every six months.

In January, the city administration approved another 30 percent hike in water rates, despite public complaints.

Asrul also pointed out the failure of the cross-subsidy water rate implemented by the companies, as customers who use more water will always be the ones subsidizing those who use less.

"The fact is that the majority of customers are in the northern part of Jakarta," he said. "They are also from the low to middle-income bracket, as compared to most customers in Pondok Indah in South Jakarta who are of the higher-income bracket, who only use tap water during emergencies."

Asrul also explained that the companies have lowered the discounted rates for the minimum water usage from 40 cubic meters per month to 30 cubic meters, which has affected many low-to-middle income customers, who depend on tap water.

There are currently 649,429 tap water customers in the capital.

Many others rely on groundwater, the excessive extraction of which has worsened seawater intrusion.