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Jakarta Post
The Jakarta Post
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Clean water a luxury at Pluit low-cost apartments

  • Josh Kelety

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Sat, July 12, 2014 | 12:33 pm
Clean water a luxury at Pluit low-cost apartments Not enough: Empty water containers sit outside the Muara Baru low-cost apartments in Pluit, North Jakarta, on Friday, as two children watch from a distance. Tenants in the area have been forced to purchase clean water for cooking, as the water supply from PT Palyja is meager and contaminated. (JP/Joshua Kelety) (JP/Joshua Kelety)

Not enough: Empty water containers sit outside the Muara Baru low-cost apartments in Pluit, North Jakarta, on Friday, as two children watch from a distance. Tenants in the area have been forced to purchase clean water for cooking, as the water supply from PT Palyja is meager and contaminated. (JP/Joshua Kelety)

For the 400 families who used to live on the banks of the Pluit Reservoir, their new low-cost apartments in Muara Baru provided by the city are decent '€” except for the water.

'€œ[The apartment] is cleaner, it'€™s more comfortable and there is no flooding. It'€™s just the water '€” it'€™s not enough,'€ said Yeyen Any Surayani, a former Pluit Reservoir resident, and part of a family of four, living in the Muara Baru projects. She added that in her unit only 60 liters of water were available every day from 5 p.m. until 6 p.m.

 And many residents have found that meager supply is often contaminated.

'€œThe problem is the water,'€ said Mariana Ria, who lives with her extended family in the apartments. '€œIf we use the water for showering it turns our skin red,'€ she said. Mariana also said she and her family only used the water for washing dishes, but did not dare brush their teeth, shower or cook with it.

Neneng Budiman, a family member of Mariana, said that when she was living in informal housing on the banks of the Pluit Reservoir, she had access to clean water from ground pumps at all hours. '€œWhenever we wanted to shower, we could; midday, afternoon, at night,'€ she said.

The projects'€™ water supply is recycled from the Pluit Reservoir, according to both local residents and Yonathan Pasodung, head of the city'€™s Housing and Administration Agency, which is responsible for the low-income housing. Yonathan said he was not aware of the water quality complaints until The Jakarta Post informed him.

'€œIt used to be good, but now I don'€™t know. I will check on it,'€ he said over the phone. He added that he was not sure what kind of methodology was used to recycle the water.

Regarding claims of water being available at irregular times for residents, he said that the capabilities of the production process were very limited, allowing individual apartments to only have one hour of water service each day.

The Pluit Reservoir is still being dredged daily, with several excavators clearing out large amounts of trash and water-based hyacinth plants, which are known to create breeding grounds for disease-bearing mosquitoes.

'€œThis problem [of quality and quantity] has been in existence for a long time, as far back as 2004 and 2005, and the problem isn'€™t that residents don'€™t pay their water bills,'€ said Edi Saidi, a member of the Urban Poor Consortium, a local NGO that focuses on low-income housing issues in Indonesia, and has been a part of the Pluit Reservoir relocation process.

'€œOften what will happen with drinking water in Muara Baru is groups of people, in collaboration with the police and the PT Palyja water company, will steal and siphon off water meant for specific residents, making the water flow very slow,'€ he added.

To make up for poor services, families are forced to routinely buy clean water from private vendors. Abdul Gafar, an independent water seller, brings his truck packed with pumps and water barrels by the apartments every day of the week. He regularly sells quantities of 200 liters for Rp 15,000 (US$1.3), but specific amounts vary per resident. '€œI sell water for consumption, water that'€™s clean. The projects still pump in water from the reservoir,'€ said Abdul.

In addition, some people were allegedly misinformed by city officials on the terms of the apartment agreement when they first moved in. Jiliani, a resident, said that she had planned to have free housing similar to her informal housing at Pluit Reservoir, and was not told about the rent or utility bills due for past months until very recently, after living in the complex for nearly a year.

'€œThey [city administration] told us one month ago!'€ said Jiliani, '€œThere are 18 families here who haven'€™t paid yet [...] I can'€™t pay for five or six months, that'€™s a lot!'€

 When asked about the bills, Yonathan said that previously the projects did not even have running water, so residents were not required to pay bills or rent.

Edi said that when the residents first moved into the projects one year ago, it was due to a large flood in the neighborhoods surrounding the Pluit Reservoir that forced an evacuation, and many of the residents were unaware of the temporary status of their '€œfree'€ housing.

Jiliani added that her husband worked a low-paying job over at the newly created Pluit Park, and if they had to pay the newly enforced rent, they would not have money for food.

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