Friday, August 27, 2004

Jakartan water runs dry

Source: The Jakarta Post

Urip Hudiono, The Jakarta Post/Jakarta

Amid the dry season, people living in some districts in the northern part of Jakarta have started to complain about the water supply from water operators in the city.

Ibu Hatma, who lives in Penjaringan, complained how she often opened the water faucet at her house and nothing came out of it. The faucet could only produce a slight hiss of air, occasionally coughing up a few spurts of murky water.

"The water has been like this for the past three months," she said on Thursday. "We have to wait until late at night before any water comes out of the faucets."

And even if the water did come out, Hatma said, it was foamy and had a strange smell, making it unusable.

Hatma and her neighbors have no other choice but to buy water from vendors.

"We pay Rp 4,000 (44 U.S. cents) for a 20-gallon container," she said. "But then we have to be efficient in using the water, so it can last for a couple of days."

Hesti, Hatma's neighbor, has been hoping for rain because, according to her, the water usually runs well during the rainy season.

Residents in Pademangan, also in North Jakarta, and in Kota, West Jakarta, have a similar complaint. But residents said they have become accustomed to the shortage of water.

"We have to accept it. Even if we complain, the water operators do not seem to be able to do anything about it," said Gunadi, who also buys water from vendors.

As for the people in Koja, North Jakarta, they have also been facing a decrease in supply but the water is still running.

"We can only fill up our reservoirs at night because the water debit is normal. In the daytime, the water debit is smaller," said Ibu Sulastri.

But for Zainuddin, water is not a problem. "The water supply is fine and it is also clean enough for daily use."

He usually pays up to Rp 150,000 for his monthly water bill. However, he did not understand the billing system and complained that he found a huge difference in his water bills from one month to another.

"I hope the water operators do not increase the water rate because we are facing increases on our electricity and telephone bills too," he said.

Zainuddin also spoke of the common human trait of cherishing something -- in this case water -- only when it becomes scarce.

"When water is plentiful, we tend to waste it," he said. "But when there is a shortage, we try to use as little water as possible and treat each and every drop as precious."

Tap water in the capital is managed by PT PAM Lyonnaise Jaya (Palyja) and PT Thames PAM Jaya (TPJ), two foreign companies that cooperate with city-run tap water operator PD PAM Jaya. Palyja serves customers on the western side of the Ciliwung River, while TPJ serves customers on the eastern side.