Walhi wants long-term solution for water scarcity in Central Java
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The local branch of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) wants the Central Java administration to ready a long-term solution for the perennial droughts plaguing the province.
According to Walhi, droughts have created a clean water crisis for over 700,000 families in 24 regencies and municipalities in Central Java this year.
Local Walhi chairman Arif Zayin said that the administration had not developed a sustainable solution for its recurrent water problems.
He described the administration’s current response, spending Rp 60 billion (US$6.36 billion) to distribute clean water and build water tanks, as a short-term solution.
“In fact, if it [the administration] had been willing to learn from past experiences, it would have fixed the problems already,” Arif said in the provincial capital of Semarang on Wednesday.
Long-term solutions, according to Arif, were needed on green buffer zoning and industrialization to compensate for the province’s high rate of green land conversion.
“Almost all the green space along the Surakarta-Ungaran-Semarang City route have been converted into industrial regions. The development of the Ambarawa turnpike has further made the area even more barren,” Arif said.
Some places needed more care, Arif said, such as the highlands and rainwater catchment areas around Ambarawa, which is about 30 kilometers south of Semarang.
Arif said that the provincial administration should give each household in the drought area a subsidy to build a small artificial lake (embung).
Apart from teaching local residents how to manage natural resources, embung development would have a small potential for misappropriation, according to Arif.
The administration’s current policy of building water tanks, on the other hand, was of questionable effectiveness and was prone to graft, he said.
Contacted separately, the head of the Central Java Disaster Management Agency, Sarwa Permana, said that drought-related problems were handled at the regency or municipal level and not coordinated by provincial leaders.
“The provincial administration will only act upon requests from the regencies and municipalities,” Sarwa said.
Out of the 24 regencies or municipalities in Central Java currently experiencing droughts, only Rembang, Wonogiri and Blora had requested aid from the provincial administration to address their lack of clean water, Sarwa said.
Local administrations could only ask for help from the provincial administration after they declared a drought emergency, he said.
Sarwa advised drought-affected affected regions to coordinate with the Regional Coordination Agency (Bakorwil) to ensure a regular supply of clean water.
Almost 1,200 tanks of clean water were currently ready for distribution, he said.
“We plan to cooperate with the Energy and Mineral Resource Agency and Water Resource Management Agency to build pipelines and embung,” he said.
Meanwhile, the head of Central Java Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency’s (BMKG) data and information section, Reni Kraningtyas, said that among the regions in Central Java that forecasters said would experience a prolonged dry season this year were Blora, Grobogan and Cilacap.
“It will not be prolonged that long, only about 10 days. It’s because the dry season that should have ended by the end of May instead started in mid-May,” Reni said.