Sat, 05 Apr 2003

Sanitation in RI getting worse: UN

Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesia suffers a whopping US$4.7 billion in economic losses per year or $12 per family per month due to its poor sewerage system, a United Nations task force says.

Co-Chairman of the UN Task Force on Water and Sanitation Albert Wright said on Friday that to make things worse, Indonesia suffered repeated local epidemics of gastrointestinal infections and had the highest incidence of typhoid in East Asia as municipal sewerage system coverage stood at below 5 percent.

"Poor environmental sanitation brings economic loss and reduces the quality of life, especially for women and children. The situation in Indonesia is bad and getting worse," Wright, who visited Indonesia under the invitation of the World Bank, said.

It is the latest evaluation from the UN task force after the Indonesian government said last month in its country report presented in the third World Water Forum (WWF) in Kyoto last month that only 20 percent of the country's 215 million people had access to clean water.

The government has also said a number of water-borne diseases such as diarrhea and typhoid remained rampant in the country.

Poor sanitation and pollution will cause over six million people to suffer from diarrhea this year, according to a senior government official.

Wright criticized the central government for having invested very little in sewerage and sanitation, while local governments had done nothing in the area.

"Private households invest significantly in individual sewerage systems," Wright said. There are only one million septic tanks in the dense Greater Jakarta, home to over 15 million of people.

However, he said, too much individual on-site human waste disposal can exceed the assimilative capacity of the local area.

"The question lingers whether Indonesia will be able to meet the Millennium Development Goals to halve by the year 2015 the proportion of people who do not have access to basic sanitation," he said.

Basah Hernowo, the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) Director for Housing and Human Settlement said that if the financing was only to come from the government, it was unlikely that Indonesia would be able to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) target.

He called on all parties, comprising the government, non- governmental organizations, donors, the private sector and the community to cooperate in order to reach the MDG target.

"A change in the development paradigm is needed. The previous policy of separating sanitation facilities and water supply should now be in tandem," he said.

Wright agreed with Bambang, saying that basic sanitation was everybody's business.

"Actually since sanitation is concerned with maintaining a clean and healthy living environment, it is everybody's business. All can contribute," he said.

Andrew Steer, World Bank Country Director for Indonesia, said: "It is time for us to work together to develop a new paradigm to comprehensively address the growing sanitation crisis that is facing Indonesia, particularly in densely populated areas".

According to him, the World Bank is currently working with the government to develop a new policy framework and strategies for tackling sanitation.