Focus Needed to Solve Indonesia’s Sanitation Woes

By webadmin on 08:56 am Sep 13, 2012
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Fidelis E. Satriastanti

Nusa Dua, Bali. As the deadline for the 2015 Millennium Development Goals draws closer, Indonesia may have waited too long to begin seriously addressing sanitation problems, a senior government official admitted on Wednesday.

“We have been late to really get serious about handling sanitation,” said Nugroho Tri Utomo, director of settlement and housing at the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas).

“To pick up the slack we need more investment,” he added. “Secondly, sanitation has not been considered a priority by regional governments, and has been sidelined by other sectors. They have not yet grasped the importance of sanitation and the risk of failing to handle sanitation problems.”

Speaking on the sidelines of the East Asia Ministerial Conference on Sanitation and Hygiene in Bali, Nugroho said his office continuously advocated the need for sanitation development acceleration in residential areas.

“Regional governments are asked to begin with city-level or district-level strategies … what are the risks if we don’t manage it?” he said.

According to Nugroho, Indonesia’s target is to provide 62 percent of the population with proper access to sanitation as part of the Millennium Development Goals, an eight-part poverty reduction plan agreed to by world leaders in 2000.

“Right now we are at 55 percent. We still have 7 percent to fulfill before 2015, which is three years away. We have to improve 2.5 percent a year, but the reality is we can only [increase] 1 percent per year. So we need two and a half times the effort to reach the MDG targets,” he said.

Nugroho added Indonesia’s midterm goal was to provide sanitation for all citizens.

Almud Weitz, principal regional team leader of the Water and Sanitation Program, said Indonesia was lacking in terms of its 2015 MDG target achievements.

“Indonesia is running out of time, it should have been done earlier. But reaching MDGs, it’s not important because they are on the right track. Political will is there now,” Weitz said.

Chander Badloe, a senior specialist at Unicef, said the need for clean water was an integral part of sanitation and public health.

“We have decades of experiences implementing programs and thinking out what goes first, whether water or sanitation, or the other way. But, one of the lessons is if you do one over another then it becomes very difficult to catch up,” he said.

“Sanitation takes low priority. People recognize the need [for] water because they cannot live without water … [However if] you’re not properly educated for the need of healthy environment, you cannot live. As soon as you get covered in water services, you go into sanitation. But that’s not how it should be approached. You go together.”

Handy B. Legowo, waste water management chief at the Ministry of Public Works, said the government was preparing a master plan for eight Indonesian cities to develop waste-water management plants to improve water and public health quality

“We are developing master plans for Palembang, Pekanbaru, Bandar Lampung, Bogor, Cimahi, Surabaya, Makassar and Batam,” he said.

Handy said the master plan development started last year and could be implemented as soon as 2014.

The government, he said, based the plan on a water-sanitation system already in place in Bali, known as an open-waste water treatment facility. The system cleans polluted water with the use of the sun’s heat to kill off hazardous bacteria before being pumped into sedimentation tanks.

“Indonesian cities have plenty of sunshine, so there is no need for a lot of energy, so it’s cheap. It requires a small space so we don’t have to spend much on [land],” he said.