Mon, 14 Jul 2003

Crop failure certain as drought worsens in W. Java

Nana Rukmana, The Jakarta Post, Indramayu, West Java

West Java's rice supply is likely to diminish after the next harvest period as around 21,000 hectares of rice farms in the Indramayu regency -- one of the province's main rice producers -- have been threatened by crop failure, resulting from the prolonged drought.

An official from the Indramayu agriculture agency, Muhaimin, said over the weekend that of the total 61,855 hectares of cultivated land in the regency, 21.185 hectares risked failing to generate crops, due to the severe drought.

"More land will be stricken by drought if there is no quick solution to supplying water for irrigation," he said, over the weekend.

Data from the agency showed that the hardest-hit regions in the regency were the three subdistricts of Hargeulis, Krangkeng and Kroya.

In the three subdistricts alone, 852 hectares of rice farms had suffered from crop failure. In Kroya, drought had already ruined 700 hectares of rice farms, Muhaimin said.

When asked about the potential loss resulting from the crop failure, the official said the actual figures were yet to be determined. "But it could reach hundreds of millions," he said.

The farmer's misfortune looks set to continue as water in Rentang dam -- the main water reservoir for the three regencies -- is decreasing very rapidly.

The water level of Cimanuk river, which supplies the water for the dam, has been between one and two meters down from the normal level.

An official from the dam's management, Aeman, said the current water level, 21.56 metres above sea level, was below the benchmark level of 23.50 metres.

If the level keeps going down there are fears that the irrigation of around 90,000 hectares of cultivated land in the three regencies, would be disrupted.

The regent of Indramayu, Irianto Syafiuddin, said a new dam would be constructed to provide residents with water for daily use and land irrigation. The four-square-kilometer dam will be situated in Bojongsari subdistrict.

"A feasibility study is being undertaken and I am assured that construction could start by the year-end," he said.

He added that the cost of the dam, Rp 109 billion (US$13 million), would be withdrawn from the regental and provincial budget.

"Rp 88 billion will come from the Indramayu regental budget and the West Java provincial budget will cover the remaining Rp 21 billion," he said.

The regent said that the dam would confine the flow of the Cimanuk River and other rivers in the regency.

"I believe the water from the dam will be enough to meet the needs of the regency's whole population," he said.