Impoverished residents in Sidoarjo crave clean water
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Binti Muamin, 38, of Lemahputro subdistrict in Sidoarjo regency, East Java, was busy recording the clean water usage of each household.
Besides being a meter reader, Binti also works for the Community Self-Support Group (KSM), appointed by the local community to manage tap water connections, maintain the pipeline and draw up financial reports based on the participation fees of tap water users.
“This job is not my preferred choice, but it has to be done so that the deprived people here can keep on using clean water for their everyday needs,” she said.
To carry out her tasks, Binti is assisted by her husband, Budi Santoso, 41, an employee with state railway company PT Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI) and her daughter Diah Ayu Wulandari, 19, who mostly helps to keep the accounts.
Lemahputro is one of four subdistricts inhabited by 11,625 people in Sidoarjo that receive a grant from the USAID-funded Indonesia Urban Water Sanitation and Hygiene (IUWASH) program, which is designed to distribute clean water to people from low-income families.
“Prior to the USAID program, the water here was murky and had an unpleasant odor. After taking a bath, one’s body wouldn’t feel clean and fresh; it felt itchy, instead,” said Arifin, 45, a construction worker who earns less than Rp 750,000 (US$83) per month.
In order to receive clean water, Arifin, who lives with his wife Ribut, daughter, son-in-law and 2-year-old grandson, pays between Rp 1,000 and Rp 1,500 per 20–25 liter container. The Sidoarjo branch of Indonesia’s Regional Water Utility Company (PDAM) could not afford to provide free clean water to residents in the area due to the land status issue and the low purchasing power of locals.
Currently, around 12 million people in Indonesia have no access to tap water. According to studies conducted by relief agencies, such as USAID, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), buying water from private sellers, such as itinerant water vendors, is 10 to 30 times more expensive than the price of PDAM tap water.
Clean water and sanitation expert from Surabaya’s 10 November Institute of Technology, Agnes Tuti Rumiati, confirmed that many low-income people did not receive clean water from PDAM. Indonesia, she said, would not achieve its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of providing a minimum of 68.8 percent of the population with access to potable water by 2015.
IUWASH regional coordinator Laksmi Cahyaniwati said that 11 PDAM branches had signed agreements with financial institutions to install 40,000 new tap water connections via micro-financing and main meters by 2016, so that 200 million people in Indonesia would benefit from clean water services.