Monday, May 16, 2005

Tsunami survivors lack clean water

Source: The Jakarta Post

Nani Afrida, The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh

People arrive in droves at the clean water facility in Simpang Lima every afternoon. Several cars, be they jalopies or swank cars, park at the site in the downtown Banda Aceh district to obtain free potable water. The facility was established after the Dec. 26 tsunami.

People are free to fill an unlimited number of containers to take home.

"It's not bad as it's free. It's better than buying bottled water," said Ida, 23, a Banda Aceh resident.

The scene is in stark contrast to the conditions in a number of villages in Mesjid Raya district, a few kilometers from Simpang Lima, where there has been a clean water shortage for a week.

Villagers consume water from wells that were cleaned after the tsunami but the water still tastes salty.

Residents of Meunasah Kulam village in Mesjid Raya are forced to drink water from the one well in the village considered safe.

"Water from the other wells in the village are no longer fit for drinking," resident Jumadi, 38, told The Jakarta Post.

Well water in Meunasah Kulam village still tastes salty. Residents have added a chemical solution to the water to neutralize the taste but to no avail.

Residents have to walk five kilometers to a clean water source or buy water from itinerate vendors at Rp 1,500 (16 U.S. cents) for a 25-liter container.

A family uses two to four containers of water daily, forcing people to fork out extra money daily during these difficult times.

"We have lived in adversity since the tsunami, and we are facing water shortages now," said an area resident, Syariati, 33.

Syariati said that many tankers used to meet residents water needs, but they seldom come now, even though residents had placed lines of water containers on the roadsides.

As a result, they have to consume salty water from the only well, which is used by 640 villagers.

Residents are in urgent need of a new well. Water quality in the area was good before the tsunami.

The technical division head of Banda Aceh's state water company, Mukhlis, said that seawater intrusion was the reason well water tasted salty.

He said wells could return to normal, but how long it would take was up to nature, such as the amount of rainfall and how many trees were replanted in coastal areas.

"Wells that are dug deeper will not be affected by seawater intrusion," said Mukhlis.