Saturday, April 02, 2005

RI needs big investment for clean drinking water

Source: The Jakarta Post

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesia needs a massive effort and investment of up to US$5 billion, to be able to supply half of its population with clean drinking water by 2015, experts say.

Core problems exist within the regional administration-owned tap water companies (PDAM) nationwide, they said during the Indo Water Expo held at the Jakarta Convention Center, which was participated in by some 200 exhibitors from 20 countries.

A total of 316 PDAMs operate across the country, with average losses of approximately 35 percent. About 65 percent of the PDAMs are burdened with corporate debts of about Rp 4.5 trillion (about $489.13 million) in total.

According to Helmut Krist, a coordinator at a water management project in Indonesia and Timor Leste, some of the key problems include lack of understanding and business focus at the management levels on how to improve the systems. The owners of the PDAMs -- local administrations -- generally do not have a consistent strategy on how to improve performance, attract investment or how to turn the PDAMs into professional business entities, providing high quality services to their customers.

"Since decentralization in 1999, PDAMs are becoming more independent and self-reliant; however many face serious difficul ties in providing service (quality, quantity, continuity) or in expanding their systems to increase the coverage of piped water," Kris said on Wednesday. "The current coverage for the whole urban population is around 38 percent, or six million house connections for 100 million people.

"This leads to an increasing degradation of fresh water resources and will hamper in a significant way the economic and social development of Indonesia. The high infant mortality rate and incidence of typhoid are associated with water-borne diseases closely linked to inadequate water, sanitation and drainage services. Economic losses due to inadequate sanitation are estimated at 2.4 percent of GDP, or about $6.8 billion per year."

Didier Perez, project leader for Euro Promocap Iwat (Promoting European Capacity Building in Indonesia Water Utilities) project said, "The 2001 Bonn charter, which was supported by the World Health Organization, targets for its implementation to provide greater surety in providing drinking water.

"It clarifies that water utilities should play a central role in delivering safe water services to consumers, ensure staff with sufficient skills and training and maintain adequate accounts in line with government requirements," he said.

Indonesia, he said, would suffer from water shortages by 2025 unless a radical change is achieved in its network efficiency.

The UN Millennium Development Goal, developed at the Johannesburg Earth Summit in 2002, states that by 2025 access to safe drinking water must be made available for the whole world population.

Suyono Dikun, Deputy Minister for Infrastructure at the National Development Planning Board (BAPPENAS), said: "We realize that we are facing catastrophic conditions. The population will reach 246 millions in 2015 and will probably hit 300 million in 2025."

This could pose a problem as the provision of water and envi ronmental sanitation are far behind population growth. More than 100 million people live without proper access to clean water, he said.

"The land's water-carrying capacity is declining consistently due to rampant deforestation, illegal logging, illegal mining and other destructive acts," he added.

"It has been predicted that there will be a water deficit starting in 2005 in Java," he added.

Experts on the panels said that about 90 percent of PDAMs did not perform well due to management and financial problems.

"According to the decentralization law, water supply and sanitation are the responsibility of local administrations but the priority given to those sectors in districts is still very low compared to other sectors," Suyono said.

"The government alone will never have enough money to serve the whole population as other problems exist, such as the lack of a policy and regulation framework," he added.

Experts said that PDAM's challenges include limited infrastructure networks, poor management and technical skills and limited investment capital.