No rain? Let’s pray: W. Java governor
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The drought that has hit many parts of the country in the last few months has caused a headache for many administrations, including West Java.
Besides applying more expensive technologies such as cloud seeding, the local administration employed a simple and “inexpensive” approach and held mass prayers, called the istisqa, to plead to God for rain in the province.
Around 200 civil servants from the West Java provincial secretariat participated in the mass prayers, which were led by Governor Ahmad Heryawan at the Gedung Sate gubernatorial office in Bandung on Tuesday.
“However hard we try, including making artificial rain, when God does not permit it, rain will not fall,” he said after the prayers.
According to Heryawan — who won the 2008 election along with running mate Yusuf Macan Effendie as candidates from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the National Mandate Party (PAN) — similar prayers were also performed by the Prophet Muhammad.
“When the Prophet pleaded for rain to fall, his prayers were fulfilled soon after. Hopefully, we may also immediately get rain,” he added.
The istisqa is commonly held by Muslims and the mass prayers usually take place in an open field.
Earlier, during a meeting involving agriculture, fishery and forestry counselors at Gasibu Square, Bandung, thousands of counselors expressed their commitment to carry out a planting drive in the province beginning in October.
A condition for the planting drive, said Heryawan, was sufficient rainfall. “It will not be possible if water levels are inadequate,” he added.
He said the extended dry spell was currently affecting 30,000 hectares of farmland in West Java. “However, the current drought is not as severe as what was seen in 2008 and 2009, when 55,000 hectares of farmland were affected,” he said.
He added that farmers could start planting next month. He said his office would make efforts to make artificial rain, but the cloud seeding could only be carried out when heavy clouds had formed over the Citarum River watershed.
“Artificial rain over the Citarum is aimed at filling the Jatiluhur Dam. When rainfall is adequate, water flows into Citarum River, then on to downstream areas and later to the Jatiluhur Dam before flowing to the farmland,” said Heryawan.
West Java Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Sigit Udjalprana said his agency had initiated three plans to overcome drought in the near future.
“The most basic option is to build public water pumps,” he said.
The second endeavor is the installation of artesian wells so that during the drought, residents have access to water. “Karawang and Indramayu regencies are among the areas which have been prioritized to receive wells,” added Sigit.
The last option is the provision of pumps for farming communities. In Jambi, the prolonged dry season that has hit Kerinci regency has put farmers at risk of harvest failure.
“At the moment, in the current planting season, we cannot hope for much, even if the rice crops have grown — the yields are far from our expectations because most of the rice pods are empty. We will be grateful even if we can get our capital returned,” said Riki, a farmer in Batang Merangin district.
Kerinci Agriculture Office head Karyadi expressed his concern over the condition. Despite that, he acknowledged his office had not done much to overcome the situation.