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Java Island, home to 58 percent of Indonesia’s 237 million residents, is critically low on water after a drought has affected vast areas of the island.
Public Works Minister Djoko Kirmanto said that the water crisis was due to the fact that demand exceeded the supply of water.
Speaking at the 92nd anniversary of the Bandung Institute of Technology’s (ITB) engineering school on Tuesday, Djoko said that Java Island, including Madura, was home to a population of 138 million, roughly 58 percent of the total population of Indonesia.
“Considering the annual water supply, there are months in which the need for water for household, industrial and agricultural purposes is not met,” he said.
This, according to Djoko, needed to be watched carefully because Indonesia held the fifth-largest reserves of water in the world, with 3,900 billion cubic meters retained annually in its 5,886 rivers and 521 lakes.
“So far, only some 25 percent of it has been exploited, less than five percent of which is used to fulfill household, urban and industrial needs. The rest is for irrigation,” he said.
Kalimantan, Papua and Sumatra Islands, according to Djoko, have some 82 percent of the country’s total water reserves, while Java Island only holds four percent. “This is equal to 124,000 cubic meters per second,” he said.
Annually, he added, Indonesia needs 175 billion cubic meters of water, of which 34 billion is used for household, industrial and urban needs, while 141 billion cubic meters is used for irrigation.
Although Java and Bali have limited surface water supplies, the two islands are the biggest consumers of water, with a combined use of 100 billion cubic meters per year.
Based on calculations of the water used and the available supply, according to Djoko, the use of water in Java, Bali, West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggara is already concerning.
Djoko called on universities in the country to help manage water resources.
“We need expertise in managing our water resources,” he said.
He added that before 2000, the level of expertise needed for water resource management was relatively simple. At that time, water management only required technical engineering solutions to be integrated with agriculture, economy, management organization, institution and gender issues.
Currently, he said, water resource management also needed to come with comprehensive expertise in integrating those issues with political, environmental, green economy, climate change and
“We have only a few students at the schools of engineering who are willing to study hydro engineering, regardless of the fact that water is a future challenge,” Djoko said.
Meanwhile, more than 100 villages, or 40 percent of the villages in Cilacap regency, Central Java, are suffering drought.
Young rice plants, aged between one and two months, may not survive unless the supply of water is ensured.
The regency’s Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) said that those villages were traditionally prone to water shortages during the drought.
“Those villages are scattered throughout 12 of the 24 districts in Cilacap,” BPBD head Wasi Ariyadi told reporters on Tuesday.
He said his agency had coordinated with the regency’s water company (PDAM) to distribute clean water to the affected people.
“Water tanks are on standby and are ready to bring water to the people,” he said.
A water plant has been built in Patimuan regency to help tackle the problem.
The meteorology station previously announced that several regions in the province would enter the dry season as early as May.
“The dry season at the eastern and southwestern parts [of Central Java] began in May,” the weather station’s head Teguh Wardoyo said.
Salikin, a resident of Sikampuh village, Kroya district, said that rain had not fallen in the past month. “Wells are running very low. Water is available only in the morning but it dries up in the afternoon,”
“Fortunately, we have neighbors connected to tap water supply and they have allowed us to share their water,” he said.
He said that a vast plot of paddy fields suffered from the drought, and called for serious measures to tackle the problem.