Thursday, August 05, 2004

Livestock sold for water in Gunungkidul, Indramayu

Source: The Jakarta Post

Slamet Susanto and Nana Rukmana, Gunungkidul/Indramayu

Wintolo, 56, a resident of Kemiri subdistrict, Gunungkidul regency, Yogyakarta, is confused. His family needs water to drink, but the wells of the area have held hardly any water since the dry season arrived a few months ago.

The water shortage has forced Wintolo to sell his goat five days ago so he could buy water.

"It was only worth Rp 120,000 (US$13), because it was still small," he said.

He used the money to buy a 5,000 liter tank of water, which cost Rp 80,000. "I used the rest of the money to buy other basic necessities," he told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

The water would last one-and-half months, if the five members of his family rationed it carefully, he said. "If the rains don't come until mid-September, I will be forced to sell the one cow I have left," said Wintolo.

Kasidi, 60, a resident of nearby Dadapayu subdistrict, was also forced to sell his cattle to buy water. He said the regental administration had been distributing water, but nearly all villagers found it necessary to buy water because the water supply was not consistent.

"We can't rely on the supply from the government. We have to buy water when our supplies run low. We can't wait for them," he said.

Wintolo and Kasidi are just two of the thousands of Gunungkidul residents who are facing a shortage of food and water.

The districts most severely hit are Tepus, Saptosari, Girisubo, Panggang, Purwosari and Semanu.

Gunungkidul Regent Yoetikno said the administration had allocated Rp 450 million (US$47,368) of the budget to cope with the water crisis this year.

"Water will be supplied free to poor residents, as long as they have official documentation from their villages showing that they are underprivileged. We hope those who can afford it will buy water," said Yoetikno.

The administration has deployed 15 tanker trucks, each of which is capable of distributing water four times daily, he said. "We are able to supply 60 tankers of water a day to the villages," he said.

Dadapayu development office head Sunoto said almost the entire population of the subdistrict had to buy water daily because of the drought.

"Nearly all the wells in Gunungkidul regency are dry now. Residents have to 'barter' their cattle or goats for water," he said.

Separately, during an official visit to Pamayahan subdistrict in Indramayu regency, West Java, on Tuesday, President Megawati Soekarnoputri said some 8,000 subdistricts across the nation were facing difficulties getting clean water, especially during the dry season.

Deforestation is blamed for the lack of access to clean water, said Megawati, who is inaugurating a Clean Water Processing Plant in the area.

The facility is to be built in 1,500 other subdistricts nationwide to help overcome their water shortages, said Soenarno, the Minister of Settlement and Regional Infrastructure.