Five-Star Prices for the Needy
Living in areas where piped services are inaccessible, many residents rely on illegal water connections. Without it, they will have to bear a higher cost of clean water.
Piped water access has not yet reached areas of disputed land. Residents in these areas cannot become customers of PAM, the state-owned water company, because they are hampered by property tax requirements. Meanwhile, the need for clean water for daily living cannot be postponed. This situation has become an entry point for water theft syndicates offering illegal pipe connections, such as in Rawa Elok, Kapuk Muara, Penjaringan, North Jakarta.
The offer is certainly difficult to reject. Moreover, groundwater quality in the area is poor due to seawater intrusion.
Therefore, residents have access to illegal piped water at a rate of Rp 9,000 (63 US cents) per cubic meter. In the last three months, water suppliers have increased the tariff to Rp 40,000 per cubic meter. In fact, the tariff set by PAM is only Rp 3,500 per cubic meter for families. Every month, the residents of Rawa Elok pay Rp 300,000 to Rp 700,000.
Adah, 47, a resident of neighborhood unit (RT) 017 community unit (RW) 004 of Rawa Elok, showed Kompas reporters her two water meters on Thursday (10/6/2021). The meters had been installed by WY, a water trader operating in the area. One meter is sourced from PAM, the other meter was distilled water or ground water that is processed to become cleaner. This distilled water, said Adah, was also managed by WY.
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Initially, Adah only had an illegal PAM water meter from WY. The tariff was Rp 9,000 per cubic meter. To install the illegal connection, she paid WY Rp 1 million.
"By paying Rp 1 million, the water flowed," said the woman, who had been using the stolen water for two years.
The problem came at the end of last year. At that time, a member of the Jakarta Legislative Council (DPRD), Viani Limardi, and PAM Jaya made a surprise visit to WY\'s illegal connection. Adah was not bothered because after the commotion, the water continued to flow. Even when PAM and the Palyja operator controlled the illegal connections there, Adah was still able to enjoy the water.
For a month, we did not dare to drink the water. My son said that this was not PAM water.
It was Tuti, 45, Adah\'s neighbor, who felt something was wrong with the water supplied by WY because Tuti used the water for drinking. Usually, PAM water that has been cooked can still be consumed. However, after the surprise visit, Tuti\'s water quality changed. After it is cooked, there are white particles in the water.
“For a month, we did not dare to drink the water. My son said that this was not PAM water,” said Tuti.
Upon realizing this, Tuti and Adah protested to WY because of the declining water quality.
WY then offered PAM water at a higher rate of Rp 50,000. According to Adah, the tariff had been raised because the source was the PAM Jaya water kiosk managed by WY.
"It’s PAM water, too, but it’s from the water kiosk," said Adah.
The increase in rate from Rp 9,000 to Rp 50,000 made Adah and Tuti angry. Tuti already felt Rp 9,000 was too expensive. This was because Tuti once lived in Teluk Gong, North Jakarta, and used an official PAM connection and only paid Rp 5,000 per cubic meter.
“If the water tariff increases from Rp 9,000 to Rp 20,000, it is still reasonable. However, if it increases to Rp 50,000, we can\'t afford it," said Tuti.
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Finally, WY lowered the tariff from Rp 50,000 to Rp 40,000. Even though they still objected, Adah and Tuti were forced to accept water tariffs far above the most expensive PAM rates. In short, they had been paying for PAM water for three months at a price of Rp 40,000 per cubic meter. This rate was far above the most expensive PAM tariff, namely Rp 14,650 per cubic meter. In this class V tariff, the group of residents who pay at this amount is the management of Tanjung Priok Port. The water tariff borne by Adah and Tuti is even higher than the water tariff of PAM’s class IVB for five-star hotels.
According to a payment receipt on Friday (2/4), Adah used 18 cubic meters of water at a cost of Rp 720,000. At her house, Adah lives with six family members. Adah felt that the fee was still too high, so she also asked WY for leniency. Tuti, for example, does not have a steady income. To live, she relies on her son, a factory worker.
In response to the request, WY installed a distilled water meter at Adah\'s house on April 4 at a rate of Rp 5,000 per cubic meter. With these two sources of water, namely PAM water and distilled water, Adah\'s water bill dropped to Rp 550,000 per month in May.
If this continues, I can\'t afford to [pay]
Meanwhile, Tuti pays around Rp 300,000 per month. This is because only four people live in her house, including herself. Unlike Adah, Tuti only uses a meter sourced from (an illegal) PAM water connection. She chose not to use distilled water because she considered the water unfit for consumption.
These two housewives asked the government to respond to the needs of the residents there. As citizens with Jakarta identity cards (KTP), they wanted to feel the presence of the state through the provision of an official PAM network to their homes.
"If this continues, I can\'t afford to [pay]," said Adah, a mother of two.
Their high dependence on PAM water cannot be separated from the poor quality of ground water in these areas. In the first five minutes, the flow of water is not a problem. After that, the water becomes yellow.
Residents of Sukapura, Cilincing, North Jakarta, also experience difficulties in getting access to clean water. Fitri and her family live on land whose ownership is not clear. She and dozens of other families depend on illegal pipes for water. The pipes run from the distribution line to the tenements there. Fitri does not know who installed the pipes.
This illegal connection was uncovered by PAM officers two months ago. When met on the veranda of her house on Friday (4/6) afternoon, the pecel lele (fried catfish dish) seller switched to using water from jerry cans. She admitted to spending six jerry cans of water every two days, according to the time the water seller arrived at the area. The water is not enough for Fitri\'s daily needs with her husband and a child.
A total of 120 liters of water from the six jerry cans is only enough for cooking. If there is water left, it is used for bathing to erase the smell of salt from their brackish well water.
This volume is far below the standard of clean water needs for residents living in big cities. This is in accordance with the size stated in the Public Works and Housing Ministerial Regulation No. 2010 on minimum service standards in the field of public works and spatial planning. At the very least, every resident of a big city needs 60 liters of clean water per day.
We have to rely on cart water because the well water is not good for bathing, let alone for cooking.
Therefore, she and her family rely heavily on the flow of water from illegal pipes. Because the connection had been cut by PAM, she was forced to use jerry cans and brackish water from the ground.
“We’re fasting now [after the pipe connection was cut off]. Previously, there was [illegal] PAM water," Fitri said.
In the area, the price of cart water is Rp 4,000 per jerry can. So, every month, Fitri has to spend Rp 390,000, almost half of her monthly rent.
"We have to rely on cart water because the well water is not good for bathing, let alone for cooking," she said.
Stories elsewhere in Jakarta are different. What may be the same is that clean water is increasingly being fought over. However, the value is higher in areas that are not covered by piping services. Unfortunately, they are home to people making ends meet on low income levels.
This article was translated by Hyginus Hardoyo.