Like many villages in Madiun District, East Java Province, Geger [...] for years lacked piped water or adequate sanitation facilities.
While the water problem was partly addressed by installing wells, the issue of adequate sanitation remained a concern. A stream that snakes through the village served as a natural latrine, with the downstream current relied on to wash away the sewage.
“This became a particular problem during the dry season when the river dried up,” Faridah, the village midwife, told IRIN. “There was a high rate of diarrhoea among the villagers.”
[...] In 2006 [...] Geger’s local government [established] public washing areas – or MCK, referring to mandi, cuci, kakus (bath, wash, toilet). Two were established – one beside the local mosque and another near the community health centre – with the help of a $25,000 grant for rural infrastructure from the government.
Faridah said the MCK, especially the one near the health centre where she worked, helped to significantly cut the incidence of diarrhoea, but proper sanitation facilities within homes would be the ideal solution.
Households, however, could not be fitted with their own sanitation facilities as the village only received water for one to two-and-a-half hours per day due to limited supplies from the well.
[...] In 2007, the government tried to provide a solution by setting up a Perusahaan Daerah Air Minum, or PDAM, a local government company tasked with supplying water through piped connections. But few Geger residents signed up to the facility because they found the Rp 1,100/cubic metre (10 US cents) charge too “expensive”, said Bambang Alfi, head of the community development group.
The rate, however, is far lower than the national average water tariff of Rp 1,705/cubic metre (18 US cents). According to Ir. Firdaus Ali, a board member of the Jakarta Water Supply Regulatory Body, it is, in fact, much too low for the PDAMs to run efficiently and at a profit.
“PDAMs can’t even cover their operating expenses,” he said. “The reasonable tariff should be at least 3,000 rupiahs per cubic metre.”
According to Ahmad Lanti, an adviser to the East Asia Pacific Infrastructure Regulatory Forum, 75 percent of the country’s 306 PDAMs were in a precarious financial state in 2007, partly because of these low tariffs.
“The tariff in that village is probably already one of the lowest in the country,” Lanti told IRIN. “But if the people still cannot afford it, it must be subsidised by local government. It’s a public service obligation.”
In a number of other higher income cities and districts, the central government has begun inviting private sector investment to make PDAMs more efficient and sustainable. But this often means higher tariffs.
“That is not possible for that East Java village,” Lanti said. “It’s the government’s responsibility.”
The Ministry of Public Works last week announced a plan to connect 10 million new consumers throughout the country to piped water over the next four years in a $933 million project. The residents of Geger village can only hope they are among that number.
Source: IRIN, 12 Jan 2008