Wed, 19 Mar 2003

Water access poor, disease widespread

Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A variety of water-borne diseases, including diarrhea, typhoid and hepatitis, are still commonplace in the country due to poor access to clean water and good sanitation, a government official has said.

"This situation can only be resolved if there is a better, new policy on clean water and sanitation," director of water and sanitation at the Ministry of Health Hening Darpito said during a media briefing here on Tuesday.

Organized by Ausaid and the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), the briefing was also attended by high-ranking officials from Bappenas, the Ministry of Resettlement and Regional Infrastructure and by Australian Deputy Ambassador in Jakarta Neil Mules.

Mules concurred with Hening, saying that the death of thousands of Indonesian people from water-borne diseases could be sharply reduced if water were better managed.

He added that social and economic costs were very high because of poor access to clean water and good sanitation.

"Despite the existing investment in developing clean water infrastructure, Indonesian still has difficulty in obtaining clean water and good sanitation," he said.

The country's report to the ongoing third World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan, revealed that 80 percent of the country's 215 million population had no access to piped water.

Poor water management, along with a lack of investment, has been blamed for the extent of water problems, as Indonesia enjoys a high water availability, at over 13,000 cubic meters per person per year.

Hening went on to say that the government was formulating a policy to increase the number of people with access to clean water and good sanitation.

He said the policy on clean water and sanitation was a follow- up of the current program carried out under the cooperation with Australia and the World Bank.

The planned policy on clean water and sanitation would also be one of the results of the planned law on water resources.

Mules announced on Tuesday that Australia had given AUS$4 million (US$2.36 million) this year to Indonesia to develop clean water and good sanitation infrastructure in rural areas.

He also cited, as an example, that over one million people in West and East Nusa Tenggara provinces had gained access to clean water with the assistance of Australia.