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A clean water crisis has started to threaten villages in a number of regencies in the southern part of Lombok island, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), over the past two weeks as the region enters this year’s dry season.
In Jerowaru district, East Lombok regency, for example, at least five subdistricts have for the last two weeks been receiving clean water aid supplies from the local administration.
Jerowaru district head, Hadi Purnama, said his administration had been deploying two tankers with 5,000 liters capacity each to distribute clean water to people to help meet their need for cooking and drinking water.
“With a limited number of trucks, we start to feel overwhelmed with the task because, geographically, the affected areas are quite a distance from one another and are difficult to reach,” said Hadi, adding that there were 37 different sites to serve across the district.
Conditions, according to Hadi, have forced those affected to buy clean water from traders for Rp 350,000 (US$37) per tank.
Jerowaru is just one of 11 districts on Lombok that annually face a clean water crisis.
Data from NTB’s Provincial Social, Population and Civil Registration Agency shows that clean water crises last year hit 64 villages in 22 subdistricts of the 11 districts in the four regencies of Central, East, North and West Lombok. The affected areas have a combined population of 14,223.
“Our mapping this year is the same. The clean water crisis will threaten some 14,000 people in the 22 subdistricts until November this year,” the agency’s head, Bachruddin, said in Mataram on Thursday.
Bachruddin said that up to the present time, his office had received proposals for clean water aid supplies from six subdistricts; two each in East and West Lombok and one each in Central and North Lombok.
He said clean water had also been distributed by two water-tank trucks belonging to the Social Affairs Agency to each of the affected regencies.
“What we are doing is just a back-up,” said Bachruddin, adding that the provincial administration had four trucks, each with a 5,000-liter capacity, to do the job.
Bachruddin also said that to help deal with the recurrent problem, the provincial administration had provided three devices that could turn sea water into drinking water to three subdistricts in East Lombok.
However, the devices were not operational, he said, because the operating costs, especially for buying the necessary diesel fuel, were more expensive than the money needed to purchase clean water from traders.
“We can see that the most effective way to help those affected is by sending them clean water with the trucks,” he said.
Other problems, he added, included the fact that not all targeted areas had water reservoirs, so the social affairs agencies had to distribute the water to people directly from the trucks, which was a more time-consuming process.
The annual crisis seems to be one that will continue to occur for some time, given that the Rp 500 billion Pandanduri dam project, launched by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2010 in East Lombok, is still far from completion.
Similarly, the project to divert water from the north of the island to the south via the Tereng Wilis pipeline in East Lombok is also not yet finished.
“Clean water is a vital necessity. Water crises can affect people’s health in affected areas and can also lead to various social problems,” he said.