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Country Water Actions

Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals, communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.

Indonesia: Simple Solution for Drinking Water Makes Big Difference
March 2006

Thanks to a new and easy-to-use water treatment solution, people in Jakarta, Indonesia no longer have to boil water for drinking. “Air Rahmat” or “gift water,” a breakthrough water purification technology, decontaminates water for drinking, and reduces health risks among women and children. BOILING WATER OUT, AIR RAHMAT IN Ten-year-old Milvan will no longer have to wake up early in the morning just to boil water for drinking. “I will just use Air Rahmat,” Milvan said, referring to a new water treatment additive introduced by the Indonesian government to get safe and cheap drinking water. Milvan had been waking up at 5 a.m. to boil water for his consumption throughout the day in school. “My parents cannot afford to buy bottled water,” said the Grade 5 student of Rawa Barat State Elementary School No. 07 in South Jakarta. A 19-liter bottled water costs one U.S. dollar while a 100milliliter bottle of Air Rahmat, which is enough to treat approximately 660 liters of water – the average amount used in a household of four in one month – costs less than 50 cents. Majority of Indonesians boil water, including water supplied by tap water companies in Jakarta, for drinking. Milvan's classmate, Bagus, had been boiling water, too, for the past years. “We don't have a water dispenser at home,” said Bagus. INDONESIA BEFORE AIR RAHMAT Over 100 million people in Indonesia lack access to safe water and more than 70 percent of the country’s 220 million population relies on water obtained from potentially contaminated sources. Unsafe drinking water is a major cause of diarrhea, which is the second leading killer of children under five in the country and accounts for about 20 percent of child deaths each year. Every year, at least 300 out of 1,000 Indonesians suffer from water-borne diseases, including cholera, dysentery, and typhoid fever, according to the Ministry of Health.

Ismail Malik of the Ministry of Health, pointed out that about 30 percent of the water distributed by water companies in the country is contaminated with E.coli or fecal coliform and other pathogens. Malik cited that tap water stored in a container for one day will turn yellow. “Many water reservoirs are located close to septic tanks,” Malik said, adding that 30 percent of the country's water pipes are leaking due to poor maintenance. The country’s local water companies, which get water mainly from the country's polluted rivers, can hardly handle the dirty raw water due to lack of advanced technical treatment. “Indonesia is really a bad country for not having clean water,” Grace Gunawan, a Grade 4 student at Sekolah Bina Nusantara, commented. “Some people even throw dead bodies in the river, which makes the water stinky and dirty.” GIFT WATER FOR INDONESIAN CHILDREN To reduce the high incidence of diarrhea among children, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) introduced Air Rahmat to students of Rawa Barat State Elementary School No. 07 in February this year. Air Rahmat is produced by a private-public partnership called Aman Tirta, which believes that all Indonesians should have easy access to safe drinking water. Members of Aman Tirta include the Johns Hopkins’ Center for Communication Programmes and CARE International Indonesia. Literally, Air Rahmat means gift water, but the brand name refers to a liquid 1.25 percent sodium hypochlorite solution which is effective in deactivating micro-organisms such as E.coli in water. Rahmat itself stands for economical, easy to use and healthy. The solution is originally developed as part of the Safe Water Systems program of the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is the same type of treatment that large scale municipal water treatment systems use worldwide. Air Rahmat, however, is made to be used at the household level in Indonesia. When used correctly in conjunction with proper storage, the water treatment solution has been shown to reduce the risk of diarrhea up to 85 percent. Air Rahmat is also able to protect water for two to three days from recontamination.

The solution is easy to use. Just add three milliliters of Air Rahmat for every 20 liters of water shake or stir for 30 seconds, wait for at least 30 minutes and the water is ready to drink. Since using Air Ramat, Indonesian women report saving more than 100,000 rupees or 11 dollars a month. They no longer have to buy kerosene for boiling water. SAFE DRINKING WATER FOR ALL INDONESIANS Endorsed by the Coordinating Ministry for People's Welfare and the Ministry of Health, Air Rahmat will be widely available in sidewalk eateries, kiosks, small stores, and traditional markets in the districts of Banten and North Sumatra provinces, where the incidence of diarrhea is high. The solution has also been introduced in tsunami-struck Aceh province. Since the first days after the tsunami, Air Rahmat, registered as a consumer product by the Ministry of Health, has been distributed throughout Aceh. More than 1.5 million bottles have been distributed so far in Aceh, where lack of clean water is still a major problem. Reported use of chlorine solution in stored water in Aceh Besar was associated with a 47 percent decreased risk of having contaminated drinking water. By mid 2006, Air Rahmat will be extensively available in Jakarta and in the provinces of West, Central and East Java. According to the Ministry of Health and USAID, Air Rahmat is safe to use. The product is used in more than 25 countries. Worldwide, more than 2 million households use products similar to Air Rahmat. “By introducing Air Rahmat,” says Soetodjo Yuwono, Coordinating Ministry for People's Welfare secretary, “we are offering a simple and sustainable solution to lack of access to safe water.”

_______________________________ Based on the article of Richel Langit-Dursin, Asia Water Wire journalist The views expressed in this article are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), or its Board of Governors, or the governments they represent. ADB does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this paper and accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use. Terminology used may not necessarily be consistent with ADB official terms. *This article was first published online at ADB's Water for All website in March 2006: The Country Water Action series was developed to showcase reforms and good practices in the water sector undertaken by ADB’s member countries. It offers a mix of experience and insights from projects funded by ADB and those undertaken directly by civil society, local governments, the private sector, media, and the academe. The Country Water Actions are regularly featured in ADB’s Water for All News, which covers water sector developments in the Asia and Pacific region.