East Java faces water crisis as demand outstrips supply

East Java faces water crisis as demand outstrips supply

Source: The Jakarta Post, 26 April 2004


Water supplies in East Java, which has suffered from serious forest destruction, are being constantly depleted due to increasing demands from industrial and domestic users, sparking fears of further water crises in the future.

Such crises would affect more than 23,000 hectares of rice fields across the densely populated province.

The executive director of the East Java branch of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), Sardiyoko, said the number of water sources in the province was continuously declining.

Currently only 1,500 cubic meters of water could be allotted per person annually, which meant that existing water supplies were not enough to meet the needs of about 34 million people in East Java during the dry season, he said.

“In Indonesia alone, 80 percent or 168 million of its people are threatened by shortages of clean water, even though there are around 300 local water utilities (PDAM),” he told The Jakarta Post over the weekend.

Statistics show that the amount of ground water used by industry in Mojokerto increased by 53 percent last year to about 16 million cubic meters, while in Sidoarjo the industrial consumption of water rose by 48 percent to around 13 million cubic meters. In Pasuruan, industry used up to 33 million cubic meters last year, an increase of 29 percent over the previous year.

The figures would appear to show that water is being diverted away to industrial users away from irrigation projects.

Sardiyoko said that due to the worsening situation in East Java, around 23,000 hectares of rice could be in jeopardy in event of a drought.

The high risk areas were the regencies of Bangkalan, Sampang, Sumenep, Pasuruan, Probolinggo, Situbondo, Bondowoso, Madiun, Magetan, Ngawi, Ponorogo, Pacitan, Banyuwangi, Gresik, Sidoarjo, Mojokerto, Jombang, Kediri, Blitar, Trenggalek, Bojonegoro, Tuban and Lamongan.

In addition to crop failures, the looming shortages of water have threaten hundreds of thousands of local people with draught-related illnesses.

This could trigger social conflicts among farmers and others as they struggle to get water — ranging from physical clashes to economic problems in which many of them lose their livelihoods.

Meanwhile, environmentalist Syafruddin Ngulma Simeulue from the Peduli Indonesia group said that the droughts experienced in East Java were the result of damage to water sources in agricultural areas and the felling of the province’s forests.

A report from the East Java forestry office revealed that out of 1,357,206 hectares of forests, 50 percent, or 660,000 hectares, had been damaged by illegal logging and forest fires.

Of that figure, 500 hectares consisted of protected forests, while the remaining 160,000 hectares consisted of protected areas controlled by state forestry company Perhutani.

Another area that had suffered severe damage was the Great Forest Park. According to the East Java administration, more than 1,000 hectares of this park were being damaged annually.

Syafruddin said that shrinking water catchment areas were one of the main factors that contributed to the water crisis that threatened East Java.

A large part of those catchment areas has been converted to residential and industrial uses, he added.

Another factor blamed for the decreasing catchment areas was unchecked illegal logging in upstream areas.

“The size of the catchment areas has drastically declined, which has caused Java island to experience water deficits,” Syafruddin said.

In an effort to restore critical agricultural land, more than 80 villages in Trawas, Mojokerto regency, have become involved in organic farming, which eschews the use of chemicals like urea fertilizer and pesticides.

Story by Indra Harsaputra



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