Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals,communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.
Country Water ActionsIndonesia: Rebuilding Aceh's Water Infrastructure Must Involve Everyone
STRUCK BY DISASTER
Home to Sumatra's largestremaining tropical forests,Aceh is well-known for itsabundant water resources.It is a cruel irony thattoday fresh water is ascarce commodity in thisresource-rich province —the result of the recentearthquake and tsunamis,which destroyed nearly allof the water infrastructure in the western part of Aceh andthe communities of Banda Aceh and Meulaboh.Azahari Ali, the head of the Aceh water company (PDAM),said that the disaster had destroyed almost all of the 65water installations in the province. As of January 11, onlyfive water installations were still functioning.The latest data from the Public Works Ministry reveals thatthe region's irrigation infrastructure has been devastated aswell. Some 50,000 hectares in seven of the province's 18regencies have been damaged by the tsunamis, creatingimmense difficulties for thousands of Acehnese farmers.
PICKING UP THE PIECES
Thankfully, thereconstruction effort hasbegun. Public WorksMinister Djoko Kirmantoconfirmed that the centralgovernment has startedrelief efforts in the watersector in Aceh and otherparts of Northern Sumatra.Their goal— completereconstruction within thenext five years. Along with houses, roads and markets,water infrastructure is now a priority.In the meantime, people have to survive on limitedresources. Currently, most people in Aceh rely on bottledwater for drinking. In some locations, refugees consumefresh water from several installations developed by bothlocal and foreign volunteers and non-governmentorganizations (NGOs). Most Acehnese farmers in the western part of the province,whose farmlands have been badly damaged, have yet to goback to farming after the tsunamis. Known for their pride,however and despite living in refugee camps, they arealready returning to their farms sporadically to see if theycan start to eke out a living.There is no doubt that rebuilding the water infrastructure forboth drinking and irrigation purposes is a necessity. In orderto achieve this, the government should include all parties inthe process.
A CASE FOR GREATER PARTICIPATION
HS Dillon, the chairman of the Partnership for GovernanceReform and an agricultural expert, suggests that thegovernment involve locals in re-designing and rebuildingAceh's water infrastructure.He has a good point. The Acehnese are known for theirpride and defending their principles. Their history points tothis through their years of defying the Dutch, not to mentionthe ongoing tensions with the Indonesian centralgovernment since 1976. They will certainly defy anythingdeveloped without their consent or against their will.Furthermore, reconstruction presents an opportunity toactually expand the number of piped, drinking waterconnections.
PUBLIC PARTICIPATION AS SOLUTION TO WATERSCARCITY
Nila Ardhiani of theCoalition for People'sRights of Water (KRUHA)said that publicparticipation is the bestformula to rebuildconnections and deliverfresh water to moreAcehnese than before thetsunamis. Before thedisaster, the utilities in 11regions in Aceh delivered to less than 5 percent of a 4.5million population.Rather than building up the PDAM infrastructure as the onlyfresh water producer in Aceh, as was done previously, thecentral government must allow local communities to developand manage water infrastructure and delivery themselves.Involving the public in redesigning and rebuilding theinfrastructure in Aceh will benefit both the centralgovernment and locals, who know best what their needs are.