Wed, 10 Sep 2003

Water resource bill needs examining

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Activists urged lawmakers on Tuesday to revise some articles in the water resource bill before bringing it to a House plenary meeting for endorsement, in order to avoid conflict in the community.

They also renewed opposition to a plan to privatize the water sector in order to get loans from the World Bank.

"We urge legislators to open a dialog with the public and examine articles in the bill before endorsing it," said Nadia Hadad of the International Forum on Indonesian Development (Infid) at a press conference here on Tuesday.

Nila Ardhani from the Indonesian Forum on Globalization (Infog) also suggested that lawmakers revise some problematic articles in the bill, to prevent possible communal conflict.

The activists feared that lawmakers would rush to endorse the bill on Sept. 23 to meet the expectations of the World Bank.

Separately, legislator Sumaryoto -- who chairs a working committee to discuss the water resource bill -- refused to explain the bill in detail.

"We are still in the process of deliberating the substance of the bill. Perhaps, the result of our discussion will be known in the next two or three days," Sumaryoto told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday evening.

Asked if the legislators intended to finish the bill and endorse it on Sept. 23, Sumaryoto simply said that the process would take days and that there was no agreement, regarding the bill's endorsement on that date.

Nila said some articles in the bill had the potential to incite communal conflicts.

Article 49 of the bill states that the construction of a pipeline between regions can only be made if the water supply in one region exceeds the people's demand.

Taking Jakarta as an example, Nila said residents who are supplied with water from Bogor and Jatiluhur dam, (both in West Java), could not access this supply should people in Bogor and around Jatiluhur dam claim they did not have enough water.

This could also be the case for residents in towns in East Java alongside the Bengawan Solo River, if residents in Surakarta claimed that their water supply was insufficient.

Wianto Adipura -- another coalition member -- said he suspected that the deliberation of the water resource bill was part of the World Bank's grand plan to privatize the water resource.

The move would allow foreign investors to control water resources across the country, he said.

Wianto of the Semarang-based Soegiyopranoto University disclosed that 119 of the total 293 state-owned drinking water firms (PAM) had huge foreign debts.

"The debts justify the need to privatize state-run water companies. This is a proof that there is a grand scheme (behind the privatization drive)," Wianto said without elaboration.

Articles of the Water Resource Bill

Preamble: The control of water resources by the state is intended to ensure people's access to water for daily needs This contradicts Article 78 (2) which says in regard to the financial condition of state water firms that the government to some extent can give donations to ensure the prosperity of social services and the public.

Article 10 (3): The scheme of water management is designed to

involve the public and private sector.

Article 40 (3): Cooperatives, state firms, private companies, and

the public can have a role in clean water


Article 46 (2): Control into the whole body of a river can only

be handled by state-owned companies.

Article 46 (3): Control into the body of a river exempted from

above paragraph can be managed by private firm or

individuals with licenses from the government.

Source: Water Resource Bill