Sat, 15 Mar 2003

EU supports Bali irrigation and agricultural projects

Rita A. Widiadana, The Jakarta Post, Singaraja, North Bali

Ambassador/Head of the Delegation of the European Commission Sabato Dela Monica and Bali Governor I Dewa Made Beratha inaugurated an irrigation project worth 6.625 million Euro (Rp 58 billion) in several impoverished villages in Buleleng, North Bali, and Karangasem in East Bali on Friday.

The project is the follow-up to the North Bali Ground Water Irrigation and Water Supply Scheme, which was completed in l999. It had to be redesigned, however, for a number of technical reasons.

The first phase of the project, 15 ground water irrigation systems, has already been completed and is now operational. For the remaining 15 locations, the survey, investigation and design (SID) stages have been completed and deep wells constructed.

The second-phase of the project will involve the construction of piped irrigation distribution networks and pumping systems to 15 existing sub-project areas, and the rehabilitation and upgrading of nine existing systems.

Governor Dewa Beratha expressed the hope that the projects would benefit local people who are now living in dry and infertile areas in northern and eastern parts of Bali.

"Bali is divided into two areas -- the rich and the poor areas. In the southern part of the island, there are abundant water resources as these areas have rivers and lakes, but in the northern and eastern parts, people have to dig wells hundreds of meters deep to get water for drinking and irrigation," he said.

It was hoped that the project would provide local people with adequate water supplies for irrigation and daily needs, he said.

Buleleng regency is known as an agricultural area but due to lack of water and irrigation, productivity has been low to date.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Dela Monica stressed that the project reflected the European Union's strong commitment to helping Indonesia in its efforts to reduce poverty.

The European Union had committed 6.125 million Euros in grant aid, while the remaining 500,000 Euros had to be put up by the Indonesian government.

The Ministry of Settlement and Regional Infrastructure will carry out the projects, with the Bali provincial irrigation service acting as the executory agency.

The project forms part of the strategy outlined in the European Commission's Country Strategy Paper for Indonesia, which provides the framework for the focus and targets of all European Union assistance during the 2002-2006 period.

An sum of 216 million Euros has been earmarked for financing the strategy for Indonesia, including the promotion of good governance, health and education, sustainable management of natural resources, poverty alleviation programs and women's empowerment.

"The aim of the project is to empower the grass roots, to introduce high income generating mixed farming systems through the introduction of new high yielding crops; to increase the involvement of female community members in agriculture and other income-generating activities; and to enhance the professional capacity of local irrigation and agricultural organizations," the ambassador said.

During a site visit to one of the Tubewell User Groups (TUGs) in Les village, around 45 kilometer east of Singaraja, Bali governor Dewa Beratha accompanied an entourage of Ambassadors and high-ranking diplomats from the European Union countries, which included the ambassador of Greece Alexios Christopoulous, ambassador of the Netherlands Ruud Treffers, ambassador of Spain Damaso de Lario, ambassador/ head of the delegation of the European Commission Sabata Dela Monica and other senior diplomats from the embassies of Portugal, Finland and France.

"These projects are your's (the Indonesian people's), not the European Union's. Therefore, the participation of all stakeholders, including farmers and local communities, should be encouraged," Ambassador Dela Monica told The Jakarta Post.