Sat, 23 Aug 2003

'We rely the kindness of others'

The recent forecast of the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) indicates that the dry season will peak in September and rain will not start to fall until October. Areas of Java have been hit by the most severe drought since 1997. Some residents face daunting circumstances, with water literally running out before their eyes. Tap water and artesian wells can no longer supply their daily needs. The Jakarta Post asked them how they were surviving.

Agus, 20, is sidewalk vendor selling hats at Cipulir, South Jakarta. He lives with his brother in Kampung Baru, South Jakarta:

I am really concerned about the water shortage in my residence. The artesian well has been dry for a month. The only way to survive is to rely on the kindness of the house owner for our daily water needs.

In our rented house, there are four families who count on the owner's hospitality since his tap water is running quite well.

Every day we have to queue to take a bath and to get water for washing and drinking.

You know, it begins to get embarrassing because every day we have to go through the same routine. He doesn't have the heart to refuse maybe, but I don't want to take advantage of him either. I try to make do with less so I'm not a nuisance.

So, now I have accustomed myself to only one bath a day, at night after work.

I let my dirty clothes pile up in my room. Only at the weekend do I have enough water to wash them.

I wish there was a door-to-door vendor selling water in this area.

But there is no such convenience. If I don't ask for the owner's water I will be smelly all week.

Yos, 31, is the father of one daughter, he resides in Kayu Jati, East Jakarta. His wife works at a non-governmental organization:

When I decided to move to Jakarta I knew the consequences. Water shortages are one of many problems that I have to face.

I prefer to drink mineral water since the artesian well water is not safe for consumption.

I spend around Rp 64,000 (US$7.7) to Rp 80,000 every month for water. That's big spending for me.

It is so expensive. My monthly bill for tap water reaches only Rp 25,000. I continue to pay for tap water because I can use it for washing and bathing.

However, health is priceless, I would rather pay than be poisoned. I don't want to drink tap water because I have heard terrible stories about the quality of the water and the service of the system in the city.

Just in case it gets really bad, I managed to dig my artesian well deeper, despite the poor quality of its water.

Anyway, I hope the taps keep running with enough water to cover my daily washing needs.

Ratna, 40, is a food stall vendor in Radio Dalam, South Jakarta. She lives nearby with her husband and two children:

I haven't experienced any serious problems with my water supply because I have my own artesian well. But I will be really worried if this condition continues.

The volume is getting smaller as a result of the dry season.

My neighbors have been complaining about the disrupted tap water supply for a month. Some said that they only had enough left for a couple of days.

Even if they have it, the water smells disgusting and is a cloudy, white color. So, if they want to use it for cooking or drinking they have to sterilize it, usually overnight.

I know about this because they ask for clean water from my house.

If they could afford an electric water pump I know they would use it to get artesian water.

-- Leo Wahyudi S.