Letter: Sanitation: Difficult

Sanitation in this country remains a complicated problem. Only a handful of people show their concern. Pathetically, the government's attention to this sector is too small despite the fact that sanitation relates closely to public health.

Furthermore, good sanitation will boost progress. Many people still throw their waste away carelessly; just disposing of it as if the problem were solved. In fact, waste scatters everywhere, causing a disgusting sight and breeding various diseases. Rivers become so clogged with waste that flooding follows.

Many settlements in Indonesia do not have sufficient sewerage facilities. In densely populated cities, septic tanks are constructed inadequately; just below ground and without proper spacing between other tanks and water sources.

This runs the risk of septic tanks contaminating water sources. That this is occurring is evident in many densely populated urban areas. In Jakarta, according to government data, 70 percent of wells in Jakarta are contaminated by feces. No wonder, many contagious diseases break out in this capital and densely populated areas of other cities.

The arrangement of urban drainage remains insufficient. Many roads have been constructed without observing proper drainage. If a drainage channel is available, often we dispose our waste in it. Consequently, the load on the drainage channel increases.

Puddling takes place everywhere and leads to the germination of mosquito larva that bear diseases. No wonder the losses incurred by poor sanitation have reached massive economic proportions. The figure issued by the World Bank, that Indonesia lost US$6 billion (Rp 56 trillions) in 2006 due to poor sanitation, is very saddening.

Money of this quantity should have been used for development, not wasted to no avail. It is high time for Indonesia to make breakthrough policies to improve public health by making the development of the sanitation sector a priority, which would simultaneously lead to trillions rupiah saved. This is homework that must be finished immediately.

Bogor, West Java

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