A leading scientist has rated Indonesia’s water management policies as among the worst in the world, and called for greater use of research and technology improve access to the precious resource for drinking and irrigation.
Herry Harjono, the executive director of the Asia-Pacific Center for Ecohydrology and a senior researcher with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), on Wednesday said that there needs to be a sustainable approach to water management in Indonesia, given its highly inefficient use at present.
“It takes 140 liters of water to be processed just to make a single cup of coffee,” Herry said at an event in Bogor marking World Biodiversity Day. This year’s theme was Water and Biodiversity.
He said agricultural and manufacturing processes were even more wasteful, with 3,400 liters needed to produce a ton of rice, 15,500 liters for a ton of beef, and 20,000 liters to build a computer.
He attributed the high inefficiency to the poor quality of water distribution services, and warned that this not only had economic and social implications, but also threatened the survival of plant and animal biodiversity through the unsustainable use of groundwater and the pollution from water processing.
Bambang Sunarko, LIPI’s biology research center head, also criticized what he called Indonesia’s “contradictory” policies on water use for agriculture, saying serious action was needed to tackle chronic shortages of water for irrigation, before the problem became critical.
He said making water use more sustainable and efficient, should include environmentally oriented measures such as preserving existing water catchment areas and establishing new ones to help restore and boost groundwater capacity.
“Water scarcity is an issue that’s talked about a lot, and there’s a strong link with environmental integrity,” Bambang said.
“Maintaining a healthy biodiversity has many benefits with regard to conserving water and improving its quality.”
Siti Nuramaliati Prijono, the deputy for biodiversity studies at LIPI, said ensuring a sustainable supply of water was one of the keys to achieving sustainable development.
She argued that preserving a pristine environment, particularly in forested and water catchment areas, would ensure a reliable supply of water for communities.
“Restoring proper environmental conditions helps stop and reverse erosion and pollution, which in turn boosts the supply and quality of water for plants and crops. That’s why protected areas such as forests are so important in water conservation and ensuring water supplies for urban areas,” Siti said.
She added that conserving these areas also reduced the risks of floods and landslides.
Siti warned that the risk of losing freshwater ecosystems, because of their high dependence on a steady supply of clean water, was up to 15 times higher than habitat loss of other ecosystems that were not as critically tied to the resource.
She said that the corresponding biodiversity losses would also be several times higher because of the inherently rich nature of freshwater ecosystems.
“Freshwater ecosystems host thousands of plant and animal species. That’s why the conservation of such ecosystems and their biodiversity is a global priority,” Siti said.
Since its creation in 1993 until 2000, World Biodiversity Day — formally known as International Day for Biological Diversity — was held on Dec. 29 to celebrate the day that the Convention on Biological Diversity went into effect.
From 2000, the date was shifted to commemorate the adoption of the convention at the Rio Earth Summit on May 22, 1992.