Saturday, June 18, 2005

Public told to conserve water

Source: The Jakarta Post

WATER: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (center) refreshes himself with water from a well in Sumber village, Wonogiri, Central Java. The President urged the public on Friday to help conserve water in order to avoid shortages. Speaking during a ceremony titled "Using Clean Water to Support the People's Economy", Susilo said that while Indonesia had a great deal of water resources, they were not evenly spread.

"Some water can be obtained through drilling but that costs a lot," said Susilo.

He also took the opportunity to defend the much-criticized Law No.7/2004 on water resources, saying it was enacted to ensure that the state fulfilled its obligation to provide clean water to the public.

The law is currently being challenged before the Constitutional Court, with non-governmental organizations arguing that it commercializes water and converts it into an economic commodity.

Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Purnomo Yusgiantoro said there the country had some 5,500 billion cubic meters of water reserves, and at least 421 major water basins.

In Central Java alone, at least six districts and 35 villages have no access to water, forcing residents to spend their hard-earned cash on buying water. At least seven regencies -- Rembang, Blora, Purwodadi, Pati, Kudus, Sragen and Wonogiri -- regularly experience severe droughts during the dry season.

This situation, said Central Java Governor Mardiyanto, resulted in farmers losing up to Rp 327.6 billion (US$34.5 million) every year.

Minister of Public Works Djoko Kirmanto said that over 900 villages were categorized as water critical due to problems in accessing water sources.

"In these areas, people have to pay between Rp 25,000 and Rp 50,000 for just one cubic meter of water. In Jakarta, people only pay about Rp 5,000 for the same amount of water," said Djoko. -- Blontank Poer/The Jakarta Post, Wonogiri