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The Mustaris’ Long Fight to Get PDAM Water Finally Pays Off

Perjuangan Panjang Keluarga Mustari Mendapatkan Air PDAM Akhirnya Terbayar

“Water from our [shallow] well is salty with bad odor, so we can only use it for laundry and bathing. For cooking and drinking, we had to purchase clean water from a vendor located about 500m from here [the house]. Yet, the water was often sold out quickly. In that case, we had to buy refill drinking water from a water kiosk. Every month, we had to spend  Rp150,000 to purchase clean water and refill drinking water,” Mrs. Mustari started her story.

The Mustaris, a family of five who resides at Wonosari DKA3 in Surabaya city, spent most of their lifetime struggling to access piped water at home. Unfortunately, the Mustaris are not alone. This situation was also found in 22 other houses in the Mustaris’ neighborhood.

Wonosari DKA 3 is one of the informal settlements in Surabaya city, located between an active railway track and Pegirian river. Community in this area mostly relied on unsafe groundwater for non-consumption purposes. While, for the consumption purpose, they had to purchase clean water from a water vendor or refill drinking water, which is usually more expensive than PDAM water.

“Our family had long waited to enjoy cleaner water at home, just like other people. It was too bad [that we] live in a big city but did not have access to clean water. Yet, we had no choice There was no PDAM regular connection here because the land belongs to Indonesian Railways Company (PT KAI),” said Mrs. Mustari.

In 2015, the Mustaris saw a glimpse of hope when they heard PDAM Surya Sembada, Surabaya with supports from USAID IUWASH—the predecessor project of USAID IUWASH PLUS—would implement a master meter program in Wonosari DKA3.

Master meter is a communal water supply system. This system offers an alternative solution to increase piped water access for low-income community members living in areas that are not reachable by PDAM’s standard pipes for regular connections, such as informal settlements and stage houses built above sea.

In the master meter system, water from PDAM’s main distribution pipe will flow to a master meter built the PDAM’s main pipe. Then, the water is distributed from the master meter to each beneficiary’s house through house connections.

“For us, master meter is a hope to access PDAM services. Thus, we tried to apply for the program,” said Mrs. Mustari.
However, the Mustaris had to take bitter pills when they were not selected to receive the program because they submitted the application late.

“Yet, we did not give up easily. For 3 years [since 2015], my husband and I went to PDAM almost every day and asked them when we could get PDAM water,” said Mrs. Mustari.

After 3.5 years of struggling, the Mustaris had another hope when they heard that PDAM Surya Sembada, with supports from USAID IUWASH PLUS and corporate social responsibility (CSR) partnerships with several private firms, would continue the master meter program in a number of informal settlements in Surabaya city, including Wonosari DKA3.

“We were excited knowing that we would receive the master meter program. Moreover, Yayasan Pundi Amal SCTV also would help us build the house connections,” said Mrs. Mustari.

“This support [from Yayasan Pundi Amal SCTV] is meaningful for us because the people here mostly make living from being casual labors and cannot afford to build the connection at their own cost,” Mrs. Mustari added.

The Mustaris continued their hard works to ensure PDAM water flows in the neighborhood. They actively promoted the master meter program to their neighbors and participated in the operation and maintenance trainings, which USAID IUWASH PLUS conducted through Yayasan Investasi Sosial Indonesia. Furthermore, Mr. Mustari also led the Community Based Organization (CBO) whose responsibilities include maintaining and managing the master meter system in his neighborhood.

The construction of the master meter distribution pipe and house connections in Wonosari DKA 3 was completed in November 2018. Since then, PDAM water flows to 22 houses in this area.

“Thank be to God. I am so blissful that we can enjoy PDAM water for all purposes at home. We only spend around Rp60,000 for the water and maintenance. It is cheaper than purchasing water. This is the fruit of our long fight,”said Mr. Mustari.

“At the moment, master meter is still the best solution to improve water access in informal areas. I hope innovations from multi-stakeholders will support the government to deliver its services and help community members to fulfill their rights,” said Mujiaman, the Executive Director of PDAM Surya Sembada.

Just like the Mustaris, millions of people in Indonesia are still struggling to access improved water at home. Analysis to the data of the Indonesia Statistics’ National Socio-Economic Survey in 2018 indicated that more only 61.3% of Indonesians have access to improved water. This situation is also common in many countries worldwide.

The 2019 World Water Day, which brings the theme ‘Leaving No One Behind, is about tackling the water crisis by addressing reasons why many people left behind. Master meter program with multi-stakeholder supports could be an alternative solution for this issue.

Happy World Water Day, everyone!

-Andri Pujikurniawati/Okto Reno (Kontributor)-

Available in idIndonesia (Indonesian)