The Jakarta Post, JAKARTA | Fri, 03/20/2009 11:18 AM
A sanitation workshop held in Jakarta this week concluded that 30 percent, or 70 million Indonesians, are still without toilets — leading to the outbreak of preventable diseases and serious economic losses.
The hefty figure was attributed to a lack of sanitation facilities and poor awareness of the proper management of domestic wastewater.
“More than 100 million people in 30,000 villages still do not have access to public sanitation facilities,” Budi Hidayat, director for settlement and housing affairs at the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), told the forum Wednesday.
“However, the sanitation problem related to domestic wastewater is also a matter of habits that are hard to break.”
The problem has caused serious losses and major outbreaks of preventable diseases in the country, he told The Jakarta Post.
“Around 165,000 people in Jakarta suffered from diarrhea last year,” Nugroho Tri Utomo, the head of the directorate’s water sanitation division, said at the event.
“We can also recall the diarrhea outbreak in Serang [West Java] in February, which caused the death of a 10-month old baby, and the cholera outbreak in Papua that killed 172 people in July last year.”
These outbreaks and other more localized incidents not only harm the body but also the state budget, Gary Swisher from the World Bank said at the forum.
“Poor sanitation costs the Indonesian economy US$6.3 billion per year in 2006, equivalent to 2.3 percent of the country’s GDP,” he said.
Swisher explained that figure included 120 million disease-induced incidents and 50,000 child deaths, valued at $3.3 billion, as well as cost of degraded land, valued at $96 million.
Disease outbreaks and environmental damage due to poor sanitation also affected the country’s tourism industry, he continued. “The 2006 cost of lost tourism from poor sanitation was valued at $166 million.”
These sanitation problems will likely lead to the government’s failure to realize its 2005-2009 national development plan, which includes targets such as being 100 percent free of open defecation and decreasing domestic wastewater-induced river pollution by 50 percent.
According to Nugroho, the government has not made sanitation one of its main priorities in infrastructure development.
“The sanitation programs are often misdirected. For example, the government often targets rich areas for its sewerage building program, but the rich will not participate in the program because they have their own sewerage system, which they think is adequate enough.”
The program does not take into account people from the lower economic strata, he said.
“They assume that the poor cannot or will not pay for the facilities. However, those people are in fact willing to pay and they are the ones most affected by poor sanitation.”
Nugroho said future sanitation programs must treat poor people as partners and not objects.
“The people living in the areas where the program is held must have a say on how they want the sanitation system to be.”
He explained that people are reluctant to use toilets provided by the government because they did not actively participate nor finance their construction.
“Active participation, along with effective lectures on sanitation, will help build awareness on hygiene,” Nugroho said. (dis)