Friday, June 29, 2012

Indonesia's Sanitation Issues Causing a Stink

The Public Works Ministry is aiming to revamp Indonesia’s appalling sanitation system, which was recently listed as one of the worst among member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“Within the last few years the government has shifted its priorities and invested in sanitation with a relatively huge budget,” Public Works Minister Djoko Kirmanto said on Monday, adding that Indonesia was ranked the third worst in the region, although he did not say by whom.

“Right now [the budget] is no less than Rp 3 trillion [$318 million] per year.”

The sanitation problem, the minister said, has contributed to high levels of contamination in Indonesia’s rivers.

Citing data from the ministry, Djoko said that 76 percent of the rivers in Indonesia’s most populated islands of Java, Sumatra, Bali and Sulawesi were contaminated with ammonium originating from people’s urine and feces.

The ministry is aiming to build more public toilets and sanitation systems but other public institutions could help solve the problem by advocating for a shift in people’s attitude toward sanitation problems, he said.

The minister cited a study carried out last year by Unicef that suggested that 26 percent of Indonesians still urinated and defecated openly instead of using toilets.

“Such behavior must be abolished. From now on there must be an awareness to stop defecating openly and littering publicly, including in rivers, by people in both urban and rural areas,” Djoko said.

The minister was speaking at the opening of the 2012 Sanitation Jamboree, an event that aims to promote awareness about sanitation from an early age.

The jamboree has been held annually since it was established in 2008, and attracts junior high school students who undergo training and take part in competitions on sanitation. This year, the jamboree staged writing and design competitions that will be used for feedback at the national sanitation level.

Budi Yuwono, the ministry’s director general for innovation, said he hoped such events would inspire local authorities to take their sanitation problems seriously.

“We are deeply concerned by the fact that there are still provincial and district governments in Indonesia that do not earmark any funding for sanitation programs,” he said. 

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