The Jakarta Post
The prolonged dry season has left local farmers and authorities in some of the country's worst-hit regions unable to achieve their targets in the farming and tourism sectors due to the absence of proper irrigation and lack of water supplies to support major tourist events.
In Jambi, the Bungo regional administration on Thursday reported that at least 600 hectares of the regency's 3,000 ha of paddies had experienced harvest failure due to drought that first hit the area earlier this year.
'Although the remaining 2,400 ha of paddies still managed to produce rice, their level of productivity was significantly lower than that during normal weather,' Bungo Food Security Agency head Ali Abdullah said.
Ali said three districts had become Bungo's largest rice-producing areas: Jujuhan, Tanah Sepenggal and Tanah Tumbuh. Unfortunately, many rice fields in the three districts have dried up over the past few months because of the lack of irrigation.
Based on the conditions, Ali said he was pessimistic about seeing the regency fulfill its target to produce 34,000 tons of rice this year for local consumption.
'In this year's first [harvest] period, we managed to meet 52 percent of the target. Looking at the prolonged dry season, it will be very difficult for us to meet the remaining 48 percent target during the second [and final] harvest period,' he said.
The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has warned that the dry season this year could last longer than in previous years due to the El NiÃ±o weather phenomenon, which affects temperatures and rainfall patterns.
The BMKG predicts that the El NiÃ±o effect will extend Indonesia's dry season, which normally takes place between April and September, until November, and affect 18 of the country's 34 provinces, including Jambi, West Java, Central Java, East Java, West Nusa Tenggara, East Nusa Tenggara and Papua.
In late July, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) revealed that 25,000 ha of crop fields across the archipelago had experienced harvest failure due to El NiÃ±o.
This year's extended dry season has also hampered the government's efforts to put out extensive land and forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan, which have produced thick haze that has severely deteriorated air quality in many regions over the past several weeks.
Meanwhile, in Papua, the prolonged drought has also forced the Asmat regional administration to postpone the annual Asmat Cultural Festival from October to January next year, the first time the event has ever been postponed since it began in 1984.
'The 31st Asmat Cultural Festival should have been started today [Thursday] until Oct. 13. We, however, have decided to postpone it until January next year due to the prolonged drought,' Asmat Tourism Agency head Simon Junumpit told The Jakarta Post over the phone.
Located some 400 kilometers southwest of the provincial capital of Jayapura, Asmat is known for its sculpture and carving.
Since 1984, people from the regency's 19 districts have gathered at the festival to showcase their respective cultures, including dances and carvings, to domestic and foreign tourists.
Simon said Asmat had seen no rain for the past six months. To fulfill local people's water needs, the administration, according to Simon, had been transporting clean water from outside the regency, on board a ship every three days.
'The water is distributed to local residents for free,' said Simon, adding that the lack of clean water was discouraging tourists from visiting the regency.
Responding to the postponement, Iwanta Peranginangin, the owner of local tour operator Papua Adventure, said he could accept the decision, arguing that forcing the festival to carry on could lead to another major problem.
'With no adequate clean water supply, thousands of people who visited the regency could easily get sick,' he said.
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