Bali is well known for its pristine beaches, traditional cultural villages, and abundant tropical landscapes. What is lesser acknowledged about the popular holiday destination is that the island is experiencing water scarcity. While the impacts of this are seldom observed by domestic or International visitors, there are currently hundreds of families in rural Bali experiencing severe water scarcity.
Community members from Banjar Bukit Catu in East Seraya Village in Karangasem Regency have spoken with reporters this week to share their experiences of water scarcity. Ni Luh Metro and Ni Wayan Sulendri were joined by local reporters as they trekked for 3km to find a clean water source. Together with their large containers, they trekked over steep, rocky hills to find the water source.
Sulendri told reporters that she and her community have been doing this daily for the last few months. The water is not only used for drinking but cooking, bathing, and all other household jobs that require water.
Despite rainwater harvesting and being conservative with their water consumption, the community still has no option but to walk for over two hours to access water. This situation has been happening year upon year to the residents of Bukit Catu, but the dry season this year has been particularly bad. Sulendri explained that ‘To get one bucket of water, you have to queue for more than 1 hour. Residents queue up to a dozen people from morning to evening. Not to mention the journey from the bottom [of the hill] to the top takes about 2 hours’.
Sulendri explained that the community has no option but to walk to access water and that no more efficient options are available to them. Doing the maths, Sulendri explained that getting water can take over five hours out of her day if she must trek up to the only available water source more than once. Sulendri’s remarks were echoed by Metri, who also confirmed that she walks up the hill up to three times a day to get sufficient water for her family.
All rainwater harvesting tanks are empty, all other water sourcing in the immediate vicinity are dry, and there is no mains water in the area. The community shared with reporters that they are hopeful that the provincial government will take swift action to solve the issue that has been going on for far too long.
Fellow resident I Made Kari shared, ‘We hope the government can pay attention to our residents here who lack water. We also want to get water from PAM [mains water] like other residents’. It is reported that over 500 families in the area do not have access to clean water within their homes or immediate vicinity. The Head of East Seraya Village, Made Pertu, explained that the situation has worsened since August this year.
He explained, ‘The problem of water is a routine problem every year in East Seraya. Especially residents at the top. Many residents are forced to be economical in using water for their daily needs. We hope that the Regional Government (Pemda) of Karangasem can find a solution to this problem’. He shared that residents are starting to feel the physiological impacts of dehydration, citing dizziness. Other villages affected include Banjar Tanah Barak, Tiing Jalan, and Tukad Buah.
Pertu confirmed that some residents can pay for water to be driven up to them by motorcycle, but this is costly. The price of water is dictated by the distance the driver must travel, making buying water an option only really for the residents living lower down the ridge line.
Water scarcity in Bali is predicted to last until 2030. The situation also affects Java, the Nusa Islands, Lombok, Gili Islands, and Nusa Tenggara. NGOs and the provincial government are running programs to address the issue. Still, the pleas from the communities in East Seraya make it clear that the problem must be taken seriously.
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