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At a glance: Indonesia

Community manpower makes clean water a reality in Aceh

© UNICEF video
Lamkunyet and 200 other villages across Aceh province are slated to receive water systems by the end of next year.

By Leo Wahyudi S and Steve Nettleton

As part of the launch of ‘Progress for Children No. 5: A Report Card on Water and Sanitation’, UNICEF is featuring a series of stories focused on achieving the 2015 targets set by Millennium Development Goal 7 – to halve  the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation

LAMKUNYET, Indonesia, 5 September 2006 – As volunteers connect the final pieces of piping from a trench to a house, Abdullah Nya’Neh grows more excited. He is the village chief of Lamkunyet, a small community on the outskirts of Banda Aceh, which is about to receive running water for the first time. It will bring a dramatic change to a rural area that has traditionally drawn its water from wells.
“We never even dared to dream one day we’d have tap water,” he says.

Every week, about 40 villagers have offered their time to connect their town to a water treatment plant in Mata Ie, a Banda Aceh suburb a few kilometers away. The village provided the manpower, UNICEF provided expertise and the raw materials.

Lamkunyet is one of some 200 villages across Aceh slated to receive water systems by the end of next year. The effort marks a new chapter in UNICEF’s mission to provide clean water to a province still recovering from the 2004 tsunami.

Building back better

“The project now is approaching the rehabilitation phase,” said Dara Johnston, UNICEF’s water and sanitation program officer in Banda Aceh. “We’re still providing water to the displaced people, but at the same time we’re developing water and sanitation systems for the returnee areas. And areas that have been affected for a long time due to the lack of services of water and sanitation.”

© UNICEF video
About forty villagers from Lamkunyet Indonesia volunteer their labor to provide their community with clean tap water.

In cooperation with the International Relief and Development (IRD) and the District-owned Tap Water Company (PDAM), UNICEF opened the water treatment plant in Mata Ie in April 2006. The plant, which was built in 1995, has seen a dramatic increase in output, from 20 liters per second to 80 liters per second.

UNICEF and its partners plan to repair a total of 18 water treatment plants by the end of 2007, with each capable of serving about 15,000 people.

The price of clean water

But delivering the tap water is not enough, said Johnston.

“Many people have misconception of water,” said Johnston. “They think water access is free. In fact, the clean water operators should be paid for, chemical substance to clean water should be bought, and water treatment plant should be maintained. There is a cost for those,” he said.

That concept is starting to sink in for many residents.

Villagers say they are willing to pay for the convenience and improved hygiene of the new water system.

“We thank God that we can now have clean tap water,” said Abdullah. “In the past we often had problems with diseases – malaria and diarrhea. Now we hope with the tap water the whole village will stay healthy.”




UNICEF correspondent Steve Nettleton reports on progress made in bringing clean water into village homes in rural Aceh province.
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