Impact News

Written by: Maya Larasati

On World Water Day, the UN published the UN World Water Development Report, an annual publication on water and sanitation issues. Each year’s report focuses on a different theme and gives policy recommendations to decision-makers by offering best practices and in-depth analyses in regard to the theme.

The UN World Water Development Report 2024: Water for Prosperity and Peace spotlights the importance of water and its significance for human livelihoods. It underlines the role of water in uniting people and how water can serve as a tool for peace, sustainable development, climate action, and regional integration.

Figure 1. UN World Water Development Report 2024: Water for Prosperity and Peace

Status of the World’s Water Resources

The WWDR report highlights the current state of the world’s water resources, revealing that global freshwater use has been increasing at nearly 1% annually. This rise is driven by socio-economic development and changing consumption patterns, such as dietary shifts. Agriculture is the primary consumer, accounting for about 70% of freshwater withdrawals, with industrial use at less than 20% and domestic use at under 10%. These sectors are the key contributors to the growing demand for water.

Approximately 50% of the world’s population is facing water scarcity for at least part of the year. One-quarter of the world’s population experiences “extremely high” levels of water stress—when the quality or quantity of water doesn’t meet the demand—using more than 80% of their annual renewable freshwater supply.

There are differences in the main cause of poor ambient water quality. In lower-income countries, low levels of wastewater treatment are the biggest drivers, while in higher-income countries, problems arise from the runoff from agriculture. Increasing records of rainfall extremes are happening worldwide, as have the frequency, duration, and intensity of meteorological droughts. Climate change is projected to intensify the global water cycle and to further increase the frequency and severity of droughts and floods.

Thematic Perspectives on Water for Prosperity and Peace

WWDR discussed several sectors that are directly correlated with water use and how those sectors connect with human well-being and prosperity.

Investment in agriculture is crucial for sustainable development, emphasising responsible water governance to ensure adequate access to water resources, especially for marginalised groups.
Prioritizing equitable access to WASH services is essential for community well-being, necessitating collaborative management and disaster risk reduction efforts.
Industry’s potential for economic prosperity is tempered by water-related challenges, highlighting the need for sustainable solutions through cooperation and partnerships.
Energy production’s significant water usage underscores the interdependency between water and energy sectors, urging the promotion of water-efficient renewables.
Ecosystem degradation highlights the scope for restoration to become a dominant response to improving water quality and availability and for climate change adaptation and mitigation
International water law and diplomacy facilitate cooperation to manage transboundary resources effectively and inclusively, fostering regional stability and conflict resolution.

How’s Indonesia doing?

On River

Rivers are vital water resources for Indonesians, serving a wide range of purposes from bathing to sanitation. However, the quality of rivers in Indonesia needs improvement. In 2018, the Citarum— which provides drinking water to major cities including Bandung, Jakarta, and Tangerang—was considered one of the 10 most polluted rivers in the world. In 2023, the Ciliwung River flooded following heavy rainfall. It overflowed into several areas in Jakarta, affecting 30 RTs with water levels ranging from 30 centimeters to 2 meters.

Figure 2. Joint personnel are working to handle the breached Kalibaru embankment in Simpang Hek, Kramatjati, East Jakarta on Monday (25/3/2024). Source: Kompas

Statistics Indonesia (2020) reports that out of the 70,000 rivers, both large and small, recorded in the country, nearly half of them are heavily polluted. They are filled with garbage and waste, especially the rivers located in residential and urban areas. Meanwhile, data from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry in Statistics Indonesia (2023) presents that 91,9% of our 111 rivers identified didn’t meet the quality standards, with 73% of them falling into mildly polluted rivers. Domestic waste, industry, agriculture, livestock, and fisheries are several factors that affect water quality problems, with most of the issues coming from domestic waste.

On Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH)

Figure 3. An overview of sanitation access achievements in Indonesia and globally in 2020 (Source: Indonesian Ministry of Health, 2023)

The Indonesian Government has made great strides in ensuring millions of people with access to basic sanitation. Despite this, 11 million people in Indonesia still practice open defecation (OD) in 2023 (BPS, 2023). Indonesia Statistics (2023) reported that

Only 7 million households have access to safely managed sanitation
There are still 4,2% of households that practice open defecation
8,3% of the households do not have access to improved water

OD isn’t the only aspect that needs to be tackled in the WASH sector. But, it certainly is one of the most prominent issues in Indonesia, which has to be addressed to achieve the SDG 6 target — to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Extreme Weather, Urban Poor, and Inequalities: A Case Study in Indonesia

A research done in the Resilient Indonesian Slums Envisioned (RISE) project titled “Resilient Indonesian Slums Envisioned (RISE): Building an Inclusive Governance with People and Water to Make Social-ecological Interactions for Resilient to Aquatic Disasters” has found water-related problems in Indonesia, such as flooding and water shortage are closely tied to unequal development across different parts of the city.

A study based on three flood-prone cities in Indonesia — Manado (West Sulawesi Province), Pontianak (West Kalimantan Provinces), and Bima (West Nusa Tenggara Province) – found that climate-related problems such as flooding, drought, and heat stress may affect the whole city, regardless of rich or poor neighborhoods. However, urban poor populations suffer more severely due to some reasons – they most likely live in parts most vulnerable to flood, with crowded and impoverished neighborhoods with limited access to clean water, in comparison to the rich who have better resources and choices to live in well-planned residential areas.

In certain parts of the city, significant economic growth has led to the development of upscale neighborhoods with tall buildings, thriving business districts, and large shopping centers. However, this rapid development has caused surges in land prices, housing rents, and the cost of essentials, making these areas inaccessible to the urban poor. In rural areas, forests have been converted to agricultural lands to meet city demands, disrupting the natural water cycle. Consequently, urban areas face increased flooding during heavy rainfall and water shortages during droughts.

The research findings reveal that profit-seeking activities by the developers combined with poor policies have worsened water disasters which mostly impact the urban poor. The study recommends 3 ways to improve urban poor conditions when facing water-related disasters:

Making sure water management practices support the resilience of communities.
Consider the risks of climate change when making decisions about water-related institutions and services
Plan infrastructure carefully by involving the community in the decision-making process and raise their awareness.

Addressing water issues and challenges requires active engagement with affected communities and stakeholders involved in implementing the solutions. Finding sustainable solutions needs to consider marginalized groups and inequalities that will increasingly suffer and be impacted by these issues. 


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