Saturday, October 16, 2004

Water shortage makes life hard in Bandung

Source: The Jakarta Post

Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post, Bandung

Much of Euis Saripudin's time is spent getting water. The 46-year-old resident of Sindangjaya village, Arcamanik district of Bandung, must always be on the alert for water flowing through the drain in front of her house, especially during the dry season. If she hears water in the drain, she quickly opens a valve connecting it to a shallow well about five meters away in front of her house. The water flowing from the river atop Sindanglaya hill to the drains below is of great importance to Euis and hundreds of Sindangjaya residents because wells in the area had dried up ever since factories and luxury housing estates were built in the Ujungberung area of the Bandung basin.

"Most of the wells started to dry up during the 90s," said the mother of seven.

Residents -- who cannot afford to buy water from mobile water traders -- depend on the river water flowing into the drains during the dry season. The method that Euis and her neighbors use to filter the drain water is to channel it to a pond near their wells so the water can be purified by seeping through the layers of soil and eventually into their wells. This method of water retrieval has been used by the government as a model for absorption wells in Bandung. The difficulty in getting water is not only caused by the dry season, but also by the excessive use of water by industries and commercial activities including hotels and malls.

Based on data from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, the excessive use of ground water in the basin area has significantly deteriorated the ground water conditions there.

Head of the Ground Water Conservation Office, Danaryanto, said that they began recording data about ground water conditions in the Bandung basin area in 1977.

"At that time, we drilled about 100 meters into the ground in the Citarum river valley area. Water spurted upward as high as 20 meters then. But now in the Rancaekek area here, for example, there is not a single drop of water after drilling for 250 meters," he said.

When calculated, the water level in a number of industrial areas within the Bandung basin area was found to have dropped to around 100 meters over a period of around 27 years.

The condition has been declared critical because the water level has dropped more than 60 percent.

The ground water reserve in the Bandung basin area alone is only 108 million cubic meters per year, but Danaryanto said the government had not yet provided industries with tap water. As a result, the factories still pump ground water for their operational needs.

A researcher from the agency, Agus Taufik, discovered eight locations where sinkholes had appeared because the ground water which had previously supported the surface layers of soil had been siphoned out, and this had created underground cavities called cone depressions.

The worst affected area is located in South Cimahi, where the land surface has sunk at least 52.4 centimeters, according to data recorded in 2000.

Seven other locations experiencing the problem are Dayeuhkolot (45.8 centimeters), Rancaekek (24.9 centimeters), Banjaran (17.9 centimeters), Bojongsoang (19.1 centimeters), Majalaya (15.9 centimeters), Braga (8.4 centimeters) and Ujungberung (6.6 centimeters).

An investigation conducted by the agency on factories since 1976 showed that 686 drilled wells which pumped out around 300,000 cubic meters of ground water annually, existed in South Cimahi area in 1976.

The amount of wells increased preceding the economic crisis of 1998. The industrial boom caused the number of drilled wells to reach 2,387, with the highest volume of ground water pumped reaching 77 million cubic meters.

The closing of numerous factories during the economic crisis has somewhat alleviated the pressure on ground water resources.

In 2003, the number of drilled wells in the Bandung basin area had dropped to 2,258, decreasing the amount of water siphoned to 50 million cubic meters.

The West Java administration has considered relocating the factories to Cipeundeuy in the west of Bandung regency, where their impact is expected to be less damaging.