Irawaty Wardany, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar, Bali
Despite the progress in economic development in Indonesia, sanitation has remained a major challenge facing the country, a World Bank executive says.
Almud Weitz, regional team leader of the Water and Sanitation Program for East Asia and the Pacific, told a media workshop here Monday the problem lay with the absence of investment in the sanitation sector.
Indonesia has the lowest percentage of urban sewage treatment among neighbors the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia.
The survey found only 2 percent of urban sewage in Indonesia was treated.
"The three other countries have invested much in sanitation. They have been really into it," Weitz said.
She added that around 60 percent or about 80 million people in Indonesian had no access to sanitation, inflicting US$6.3 billion in economic losses annually on the country.
Failure to act immediately would only cause the next generation to bear the consequences, she said.
"Bad sanitation leads to waterborne diseases such as diarrhea that claims over 100,000 lives of children every year," she said.
Head of the subdivision for drainage and garbage at the National Development Planning Agency Oswar Mungkasa acknowledged Indonesia had not yet developed a sound sanitation system.
"Statistically 68 percent of Indonesian people have access to sanitation systems, but it does not meet the standard of proper sanitation," he said.
He said 70 percent of wells in Jakarta were polluted by E. coli bacteria as many septic tanks were located too close to wells.
Oswar said the government was not the only one responsible for the sanitation problem.
"People need to take responsibility. How you can possibly expect the government to provide sanitation to all Indonesians?"
He said the government was only responsible for providing access to public sanitation facilities such as public toilets and sewage treatment systems.
Low public awareness of sanitation is one of the problems, with people in many places still defecating in rivers, the main source of water for their daily needs.
"They brush teeth, wash and bathe in the same river where they defecate. They do not realize (they're attempting to live a) healthy lifestyle in an unhealthy environment," Oswar said.
Director of environmental health at the Health Ministry Wan Alkadri said the ministry was organizing a community empowerment program called Community-Led Total Sanitation that had been used since 2005 in six provinces: South Sumatra, East Java, West Java, West Nusa Tenggara, West Kalimantan and Jambi.
"The program is quite successful in changing people's habits. There are 160 villages in those provinces (where people) no longer defecate (in unsuitable places)," he said.