Two interesting articles today tell stories of daily struggles with sanitation and water hygiene in Jakarta, where only roughly 50% of residents have easy access to piped water, and the rest of Indonesia.

Muara Baru, a poor area in North Jakarta, reveals a common problem. Water is provided by the authorities but controlled and sold to the population at inflated prices by vendors whose methods appear similar to organized crime operations. Public hydrants are often claimed as private property by people living next to them, and the practice of reselling public water is so ingrained in the minds of locals that they do not regard it as abnormal. Attempts to shut off water supply to such hydrants are usually met with intimidation or outrage.

As well as clean water, waste disposal presents problems. Jakarta’s 10 million people produce 6000 tons of waste a day, yet can only deal with half of it adequately. The problem is also felt in less developed parts of the country.

A World Bank survey last year estimated that poor sanitation and waste management costs the Indonesian economy US$6.2 billion a year, or 2.3% of the country’s GDP. Only 57% of Indonesian households have safe and easy access to toilet facilities, and there are 120 million disease cases and 50,000 premature deaths each year.

Those in power need to see the effects not just on health but ultimately on the economy and Indonesia’s plans to raise its status. The government has realized this to a degree, announcing a plan costing billions of dollars to improve water and landfill facilities in over 200 cities across the country, while separate programs aim to improve water facilities in 10,000 villages. Both are hoped to produce results within the next five years.

source & articles:  The Jakarta Globe and IRIN Asia (United Nations Humanitarian News)