Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Jakartans Feel the Effects of Long Drought

Water wait: Residents of Mekarjaya in Cigudeg in Bogor, West Java, line up for water distributed by local Red Cross volunteers. Water company officials say an extended dry season is lowering their ability to meet demand, with daily production dipping as much as 10 percent this month.(JP/Theresia Sufa)

Jakartans have started to feel the effects of the severe drought affecting the city, especially in western and northern areas, with water in their faucets dwindling to a drip or disappearing altogether.

Stephanie Tay, 24, said the tap water at her house in the affluent Citra Garden residential area in Kali Deres, West Jakarta, has not run since last Thursday.

Tap water in the western part of Jakarta is supplied by PT Palyja, and the eastern part by PT Aetra.

“The water had been a bit dirty for two weeks until last Thursday, when it suddenly stopped flowing,” Stephanie said. “Only the water faucet in front of my house still works. But the water is smelly and the flow is weak.”

Stephanie said her family had to buy vast quantities of drinking water for taking baths and washing dishes.

“On the first day of the water crisis, my family immediately bought 10 5-gallon containers of water at Rp 6,000 [62 US cents] each,” said Stephanie, who works in the purchasing department at a heavy equipment company. 

During the water crisis, her family dined out to avoid dirty dishes, Stephanie said.

The crisis had not only affected her wallet and personal hygiene, but had also caused her dirty laundry to pile up, she said.

“I’ve only done my laundry once since last Thursday. I usually do my laundry once every two days,” Stephanie said. 

Some residents in Jembatan Besi, Tambora, West Jakarta, have adopted the same methods as Stephanie in tackling the water shortage, by buying water in jerry cans from water vendors, according to one of the neighborhood heads, Suntama, 37.

“Residents in my neighborhood have to buy additional water to compensate the decreasing levels in ground water,” he said.

Suntama said that he himself spent Rp 5,000 every day to buy 10 jerry cans of water for his family.

One of the residents in Jembatan Besi, 46-year-old housewife Anisah, said she still had tap water but the quality had deteriorated since last week. “The water smells really bad, like a mixture of drain water and chemicals,” she said. 

Zahir, 70, a resident of Sunter Agung, North Jakarta, also suffered with the same problem as Anisah.

“The water has been unusually dirty and murky these past two weeks,” said Zahir, who has been living in the area since 1983. “But it’s okay because we only use it for taking a bath, not for drinking.”

He said he had no problem with the decreasing flow of tap water because he could store water in his storage tank at night.

His neighbor, 33-year-old Unang, said that while the water in his house was still running and clean, the flow was much weaker than usual.

“It has been like this for the past two weeks. This isn’t just happening in my house but also in my neighbors’ houses,” the silversmith said on Sunday.

PT Aetra, whose water supplies also cover Sunter Agung, acknowledged that the water intake to its purification plant in East Jakarta had been declining by 3 to 10 percent since Aug. 24.

“The peak of the decline was on Sept. 3, when the intake declined by 10 percent,” the company’s spokeswoman, Rika Anjulika, said. “This is because of the prolonged dry season.”

Rika insisted, however, that the company were taking all necessary measures to curb the impact of the declining water.

“We have prepared emergency water trucks in case some areas suffer water crises,” she said. “We have 14 trucks at the moment. We can hire additional ones, if necessary.”

According to Rika, the company’s customers usually only complained about unclean water, not shortages.

“We use water from the Jatiluhur dam, which flows through several rivers in the city. But too many people throw garbage into the rivers, which makes it difficult for us to sanitize the water,” she said.

The city-owned water company, PT PAM Jaya, is ensuring that the city will not face a water crisis in the near future despite the drought, saying the water level at the city’s main water source, the Jatiluhur dam in Purwakarta, West Java, remains sufficient.

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