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At a glance: Indonesia

UNICEF supports rainwater harvesting for families on remote islands in Indonesia

UNICEF Image: Indonesia, rainwater harvesting
© UNICEF/2007/Purnomo
A family stands next to their home's rainwater harvesting system. Despite sparce rains, residents are now provided with enough clean, treated water to last for about a year, thanks to the UNICEF-supported programme.

By Suzanna Dayne

ALOR, Indonesia, 14 December 2007 – The island of Alor is just two short flights away from Bali, and yet it’s a world away when it comes to the most basic of life’s necessities: clean drinking water.

Climate change experts warn that the problem could get worse. It rains here a mere four months out of the year, and residents often resort to collecting water from local streams. The only alternative had been to buy water from small tanker trucks that travel around the island.
“If it’s the dry season we have to walk five kilometres from early morning, and sometimes we don’t get home until noon,” said Juliana, a homemaker. “I have to bring this 20-litre can. Sometimes it’s enough, sometimes it isn’t.”

Teachers at the local school say children often have to help and then they are too tired to study. “We used to have to go down to the river in the morning before school,” said Lahal Ayub Bain, a junior high school student. “Then we’d take a quick bath and bring water back home. Then we could go to school.”

A community effort

UNICEF is working on the island to help families like Lahal’s through its rainwater harvesting programme. 

Rainwater harvesting is a community effort. First, local residents are taught how to build the tanks in which water run-off from tin roofs is collected. They fan out to different villages and build the tanks with the help of community residents.

It takes just a couple of days to construct one tank for a home. The system can supply enough water for drinking and cooking for a family to last most of the year.

‘Every house has one’

The people on Alor say the tanks have changed their lives. Ema Dolpali lives on nearby Pura Island in a simple home with her husband and two children. There are no streams or water trucks, so the entire village had been relying on one well for all its water needs.

“Our ancestors lived up the mountain but then they moved further down, and the population increased, so we had to add a well – but the water was often salty,” she said. “Now we have help from UNICEF and we are very happy with the rainwater tanks. Every house has one, so we rarely have to go to the well.”

The rain clouds are beginning to gather on the island and suddenly it starts to pour. Children run out of their homes to wash their faces, to splash and play in the puddles. In this part of Indonesia, a rainy day is not a day to stay indoors.




November 2007:
UNICEF’s Suzanna Dayne reports on the use of rainwater harvesting to help islanders in Indonesia cope with the lack of water resources.
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