RWSN in Indonesia

So this week, I’m lucky enough to have been invited to present at the International Indonesia Water Week in Jakarta. RWSN is a global network, but many of you will have noticed the strong Africa-bias. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the challenges of delivering good quality rural water services are to be found everywhere – indeed the Pacific region is the where the biggest disparities between urban and rural are to be found [JMP].

This evening was a welcoming dinner, where we got a briefing on the programme ahead and our roles as session ‘resource persons’. It was my first chance to meet some of the other people at the event and as someone who knows next to nothing about this the WASH sector in this country, this is a real treat as opportunity to learn.  While my taste buds were being introduced to some exotic new flavours, I picked up some initial points in conversation; this included a challenging new target that the Government of Indonesia has set to achieve universal access to water by 2019. That’s a big challenge for any country, but particularly one as populous as this – around 250 million scattered across thousand of islands.

Interestingly – leading on from recent RWSN focus on private boreholes in Lagos – I was told that in Jakarta even those households with a connection to the municipal piped water system (which is fed from rivers and a reservoir inland), prefer to use their own wells and boreholes with groundwater taken from 20-30m depth. I was also told that only about 2% of the population have access to a improved sanitation – and that means a lot of shit going in the rivers and into the ground. Oh, and apparently there is serious subsidence across the city and groundwater abstraction is thought to be a factor.

I have a feeling this is going to be an interesting week and I hope to find out what the issues are in the rural areas – it appears that spring-fed schemes are very common on most island, but the volcanism and deep ash deposits has created some useful aquifers. Catchment protection seems to be the hot topic so I will be interested to see how authorities and communities are facing it.

If you know anything about rural water systems in Indonesia, then I’d love to hear from you so that we help make RWSN more relevant to the practitioners and researchers in this fascinating region.

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