Thursday, August 26, 2004

Water shortages spread

Source: The Jakarta Post, Antara

Millions of people nationwide are beginning to feel the effects of the dry season this year, which has led to water shortages and forest fires in many parts in the country.

Tens of thousands of residents in the densely populated Bojonegoro regency in East Java province and Sragen regency in Central Java province have been suffering from a lack of water for the last few weeks, and are now desperately waiting for the government to act. "The government has been very slow to start distributing clean water to the people," Suhartati, a resident of Kapas district, Bojonegoro regency, was quoted as saying by Antara on Wednesday.

Muchid, the director of the Family Planning and Social Welfare Office in the Bojonegoro regency administration, acknowledged that three districts in the regency had submitted proposals to the government for the distribution of clean water to people in those districts.

However, the proposals could not be immediately acted upon due to bureaucratic reasons.

"We admit that the distribution of water to these districts has not happened yet. The district officials have filed their proposal, and we will discuss the matter soon with the local water utility, PT PDAM," said Muchid, adding that the first water deliveries would likely be carried out next week.

Separately, the director of PT PDAM's Bojonegoro office, Achmad Dharmawan, said that his company was ready to distribute water to the three districts, provided that the local government submitted a request to the company.

"We have allocated four trucks with a capacity of four thousand liters of water per truck," he said.

Normally, water is distributed free to those areas suffering from water shortages during the dry season.

Separately in Sragen, the local regency government has been distributing free potable water to people living in 25 subdistricts in the regency. Totok Sutrisno, a spokesman for the administration, said that the local government had dispatched 12 trucks on Wednesday to help alleviate water shortages in 25 subdistricts here.

The government had earlier constructed artesian wells in several subdistricts here, including Cangklong subdistrict, and this had helped prevent water shortages in these areas.

In West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) province, NTB Governor Lalu Serinata conceded that parts of NTB had been suffering from water shortages over the last few weeks. He blamed illegal logging for the dry season water shortages. "The illegal logging has led to deforestation, meaning that it has also reduced the extent of water catchment areas," said Serinata.

Besides water shortages, forest fires have also become a cause for concern around the country since the onset of the dry season in June.

Hidayat, the head of the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG)'s Palangka Raya office, called on local people on Wednesday to avoid doing anything that could lead to forest fires in Central Kalimantan province. "A small fire can lead to a forest fire during the dry season," he said.

Forest fires were dangerous for residents residing near forests, and could also result in a haze problem in the province, said Hidayat in Palangka Raya, the capital of Central Kalimantan.

He forecast that the rains would start to fall on the province again in October this year. Similarly, the governor of West Kalimantan, Usman Ja'afar, also warned local residents not to clear land using the slash-and-burn method for fear of sparking large-scale forest fires in the province.

In the South Sumatra capital of Palembang, a senior official warned on Wednesday that local residents should avoid leaving their homes in daylight.

"August is the peak of the dry season this year and the weather can reach 34 Celsius at noon. If people are exposed to the sun for long periods, they could be burnt or get headaches," said Suyatim, the head of the BMG's South Sumatra office in Palembang.