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Jakarta Post

Farmers, locals in search of lifelines to survive water crisis

  • Ganug Nugroho Adi and Lita Aruperes

    The Jakarta Post

Boyolali/Manado   /   Thu, September 10, 2015   /  03:05 pm

With this year'€™s prolonged dry season yet to come to an end, farmers in the hardest-hit regions of Indonesia have been forced to look for alternatives to provide proper irrigation for their farmland and avoid harvest failure.

In an attempt to reduce irrigation costs, farmers in Boyolali, Central Java, for example, have modified their water pumps to allow them to use liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), instead of gasoline, to run the machines. The farmers claimed that the modified version of the machine was more economical to operate.

To irrigate his farmland amid the long absence of rain, Tarmanto, a farmer in Ngargorejo subdistrict, said he had first needed to make an artesian well some 20 meters deep. Tarmanto said he had previously used a water pump fueled with gasoline to pump the water out until he realized that it was no longer economically feasible.

After spending Rp 3 million (US$210) to buy a water pump, Tarmanto said he still needed to buy eight liters of gasoline for Rp 68,000 to operate the pump for 12 hours.

'€œEven after operating the pump for half a day, the water yielded turned out to be only sufficient enough to irrigate less than half a hectare [ha] of farmland. This is not feasible with the expenses needed for the pump and for the gasoline,'€ Tarmanto said on Tuesday.

By using the modified version of the water pump, Tarmanto said he could cut fuel costs in half because the machine could now run for 12 hours with two 3-kg LPG canisters as fuel. In the local market, the LPG is sold for Rp 17,000 per canister.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has warned that the weather phenomenon known as El Niño would extend Indonesia'€™s dry season, which normally takes place between April and September, until November, and affect 18 of the country'€™s 34 provinces.

In late July, the Central Java Plantation Agency reported that over 6,500 ha of paddy fields had experienced harvest failure due to a lack of irrigation.

The chairman of the Ngargorejo farmers'€™ association, Warsito, said that at least 200 ha of rice fields in the village now depended mainly on artesian wells for their irrigation.

In Jambi, the East Tanjungjabung Plantation Agency reported that almost 400 ha of crop fields in the regency had experienced harvest failure due to a water crisis. The water crisis had also delayed the planting season in 870 ha of paddy fields across the region.

'€œAs many as 26 tons of paddy seed given to local farmers have been left idle as they are still waiting for the rain to fall [to start the planting],'€ the agency'€™s food crop production unit head Mahmud said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile in North Sulawesi, the long absence of rain has also caused the water level in 18 raw water sources in the Sangihe Islands regency to drop by around 50 percent over the past several weeks, putting the regency'€™s 130,000 local residents at risk of a clean water crisis.

Novilius, a resident of the area, said that one of the two springs in Tarea, which provide water supply for the regional administration'€™s office and its surrounding areas, had dried out. '€œNow we are forced to serve customers in many areas using water trucks. Otherwise, many would not receive water,'€ Novilius said.

Jon Afrizal in Jambi contributed to the article

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