Wednesday, March 23, 2005

PAM, tap water firms fall short of promise on drinkable water

Source: The Jakarta Post

Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Jakarta residents may have to put aside their dream to be able to drink piped water directly from the tap, as was previously promised by the City-owned tap water corporation and its two foreign partners, Thames PAM Jaya (TPJ) and PAM Lyonnaise Jaya (Palyja).

"Previously, we were targeting to be able to produce potable water by 2007 ... But, it seems we can only start the first stage of preparations for potable water production in 2007," Rhamses Simanjuntak, a director with TPJ said at a hearing with the City Council's commission D on development affairs.

Rhamses admitted that many TPJ customers had lodged complaints regarding poor quality tap water.

Rhamses added that his company had to make extra efforts to treat water due to the heavy pollution in rivers that are used as water sources.

The poor quality of the raw water supply also makes the company's water treatment costs expensive, especially during the dry season when pollution levels rise.

"Actually, the water is already treated so that it is clean and not smelly. However, it is subsequently contaminated due to the old pipes still in use," Rhamses claimed.

Most pipeline networks currently used by TPJ and Palyja were built during the Dutch colonial period.

Meanwhile, a senior executive with Palyja, Bernard Lafronge complained of fluctuating volumes of water supplies as being the main cause of the operators' failure to provide a continuous flow of tap water.

"The supply of untreated water has never been steady for the seven years of our operations. The volume is also below the supply we need," Lafronge said.

It was no surprise, Lafronge said, that many customers complained about repeated disruptions to their water supply.

TPJ, which is a subsidiary of Britain's Thames Water International, supplies customers in the east of Jakarta, while Palyja, a subsidiary of France's ONDEO (formerly Lyonaisse des Eaux), serves customers in the western part of the city. The two companies cater to the water needs of some 705,000 customers across the city.

Both companies signed 25-year collaboration agreements in 1998.

During the hearing, the two companies acknowledged that they had suspended investment over the last seven years because of the effects of the protracted economic crisis, which forced the administration not to increase water tariffs despite inflation.

"But, starting this year and up until 2007, we plan to start significant investment in the business totaling Rp 634 billion," Lafronge said.

TPJ would be following suit, investing Rp 432.79 billion between 2005 and 2007, mostly for the extension of the pipeline network.