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Clean Water for All
People lining up to get clean water at a water tank belonging to PAM Lyonnaise Jaya (Palyja) in Jakarta (9/2). ANTARA/M Agung Rajasa
Wednesday, 17 May, 2017 | 15:06 WIB
Clean Water for All

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - A village-owned company at Lendang Nangka in East Lombok, provides potable water to meet the needs of hundreds of villagers, ending disputes over its access.

Two weeks ago, Erna Astuti, 49, visited Lentera, the village-owned enterprise (Bumdes) at Lendang Nangka, East Lombok. Her main reason for coming to Lentera was to pay Rp30,000 for the use of 200 cubic meters of water provided by this company.

Erna doesn’t mind paying a fee to get clean water. "Using the district-owned drinking water company’s (PDM) services would mean paying twice as much, or even more," said the elementary school teacher.

Neither does she object to coming to the Lentera office herself to make the payment, which she does every first week of the month, as she is satisfied with the flow of clean water into her home. Occasionally, she would give suggestions to the company employees on how to improve the company’s services.

It’s not that she never had water problems before. For example, water would stop flowing for 4-5 hours at a time for periodic checking. But, usually before an inspection, the management would announce the move through the local mosque’s loudspeakers. As such, these pre-announcements is no cause for Erna and the other villagers to raise a fuss. Instead, they are like a kind of early warning system so that residents can prepare by storing up water.

The village-owned company Lentera at Lendang Nangka began operation in 2016. Lendang Nangka is located in East Lombok, a regency in West Nusa Tenggara province. Initially, the company was run by four hamlet chiefs, along with several village-appointed employees. The management was handed over to new managers after Law No.6/2014 on Village Affairs was passed.

This regulation stipulates that village companies providing services to villagers must be managed by local residents. "We cannot create a regulation just like tha,t except through a process of public deliberation," said Azhari, head of Lentera. 

At Lendang Nangka, the presence of such a company is vital. Prior to Lentera’s establishment, residents had to walk half a kilometer, sometimes 1.5 kilometers just to get water. Villagers would carry the water in jerry cans or in pails, and bring them back home. 

Erna laughs whenever she thinks back on those days. She and her family would often have to wait to do their ablutions when there was no water left. "We had to walk 500 meters every time we felt the urge to use the toilet," she said.

Former hamlet chief Lalu Supratman, 52, was one of the initiators of Pamdes. Before the clean water company was established, he suffered from a skin disorder because he had to shower and wash his clothes using dirty water. Retrieving clean water was simply too much of an effort.

But that is now a thing of the past. Not only do residents have access to good water, they can also feel the effects of using such water. Lalu recalls how many residents used to suffer from upset stomachs and itchy skin. Lendang Nangka’s community health center (Puskesmas) makes a point of inspecting the Pamdes’s water contamination levels on a regular basis.

Access to clean water has also allowed villagers to try their hand at various enterprises: selling ice cubes, bottled water, as well as offering car and motorbike wash services. 

Laili Hidayah, another Lendang Nangka resident, said she would give the bottled water business a try, to complement her ice cube enterprise. So far, only three villages have started selling bottled water. "Ice cube profits are declining because more and more people now own refrigerators," she said.

In 1976, the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef)) introduced a plumbing system to increase access to clean water. Residents started storing water from the water source at the foot of Mount Rinjani in eight huge water tanks. Villagers were able to fetch clean water from these tanks at a monthly fee of Rp1,500 per family.

But as no organization was in charge of managing the clean water, conflicts arose. Three years later, many residents had gotten careless and had begun retrieving water with a hose and quarreling with each other. The initial agreement stated that water could only be retrieved using jerrycans and buckets. "People began to take water any way they wanted and some were puncturing holes in the pipe," Lalu Supratman said. Water stopped flowing because the pipe had too many holes, and residents were back to square one.

According to Lalu Supratman, Lendang Nangka, in fact, has seven water sources, some of which are under the management of East Lombok’s PDAM, which distributes water from these sources to five subdistricts. But Lendang Nangka is not one of the recipient areas. Finally, in 2002, Lalu and three hamlet chiefs initiated a village drinking water company under the name Asih Tigasah. The company was established through a process that involved the villagers. (*)

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