Fri, 05 Sep 2003

People told to save water during the rainy season

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) urged people on Thursday to save as much rain water as possible during the upcoming wet season, which will likely be even shorter than it was last year.

BMG head Gunawan Ibrahim suggested that the government and farmers manage rain water properly. so that they would have enough water during the longer dry season next year.

"We must be able to provide water during both the rainy season and the following dry season as the number of people who need water continues to increase," he told a press conference at his office.

The rainy season, Gunawan said, was expected to come as early as late September in certain parts of Aceh, North Sumatra and Jambi.

Most provinces will see the rainy season arrive between October and November.

Some parts of east Indonesia, north coast areas of Java and Madura will be the last ones to get rain.

The upcoming rainy season will peak between December and January in most parts of the country.

"The rainfall may be much higher, ranging from 500 millimeters to 2,500 millimeters, but it will occur in a shorter space of time. Therefore, it may spark natural disasters like floods and landslides," Gunawan said.

The unwanted consequences of the heavy rainfall are mostly a result of the dwindling water catchment areas, many of which have become housing complexes or industrial estates, Gunawan said.

Floods and landslide will likely occur in most parts of the areas affected the most by the drought because of the poor condition and lack of water catchment areas.

Many people, particularly those on Java with a population of 128 million, have complained about the severe drought this year. Because of the water shortages, most of the reservoirs on the island are at critical water levels, which is starting to affect hydro power plants and irrigation.

On Thursday, the agriculture ministry's production and food plants development division head, Djakfar Habsah, told Antara that this year's drought had rendered at least 92,000 hectares of farmland useless, and it will be one of the worst harvests in the country's history.

Learning from the failure, Gatot Irianto, who heads the Indonesia Agroclimate and Hydrology Research Institute (Balitklimat), said that the agriculture ministry had disseminated the information to farmers across the country, so they could prepare for a shorter rainy season another long dry season next year.

"We expect farmers to start planting as soon as the rainy season comes," he told reporters in Jakarta.

Gatot said the farmers have been told to save as much water as possible in their own reservoirs or tanks to before the onset of the next dry season.