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Asia

Asia faces a worsening water crisis

If present trends continue, the gap between demand and supply will be as high as 40 percent by 2030, the Asian Development Bank has warned in a new report. Inefficient water use and pollution are among the major factors.

Most rivers in Bali are heavily polluted

Most rivers in Bali are heavily polluted

While tourists are enjoying their vacation on the white beaches and at the well-maintained hotel pools, Bali's children are playing near polluted, stinking rivers. There is hardly any sewage treatment in Indonesia. Waste water from industry, agriculture and private homes mostly pours into the nearest stream or river, without any filtering.

Health problems

According to estimates by the World Health Organization, about 50,000 people die from illnesses related to polluted water in Indonesia every year. And there are approximately 120 million cases of diarrhoea, skin diseases and other illnesses caused by contaminated water annually.

Yuyun Ismawati, the director of the environmental group Balifokus, says: "In some areas, people are getting used to using bad water, so they kind of build up their immune system and do not get sick very easily. But in some areas, especially for visitors and tourists, it affects their stomach and they get diarrhoea and so on."

Yuyun Ismawati receives the Goldman Environmental Prize

Yuyun Ismawati receives the Goldman Environmental Prize

Waterborne diseases not only affect people’s health, but also have an economic fallout. This begins at the family level, Yuyun Ismawati emphasizes. "Children are especially affected. And in many cases when children get diarrhoea, that also affects their parents because they cannot go to work. And most of them rely on daily wages, so they will lose their income on that day. Or if the children who suffer from diarrhoea are of school age, they lose one day's opportunity to go to school."

Tourists use more water

In Bali, the group maintains, the existing water resources are only enough to support a population of 2.7 million people. By now, the island’s population has grown to 3.5 million. And that does not include the more than 4 million tourists that visit Bali every year.

Most of them have no idea how much water they use every day. "Not very much. I imagine it wouldn’t be more than 40 liters," says one man. "Showers are very quick - 20 to 40 liters." Another tourist guesses wildly: "About 10 liters: take a shower, drinking – oh, no, maybe it is up to 100 liters."

Hotels in Bali use 500 liters of water per day and room

Hotels in Bali use 500 liters of water per day and room

In fact, it is 500 liters per day and hotel room in Bali’s tourist areas, says the NGO Balifokus, which specializes in water issues and wastewater management. The figure for tourists is much higher than for the general population, taking into account not only the water for the showers, but also for the swimming pool and the watering of the hotel garden.

Paradise lost

Yuyun Ismawati from Balifokus sees trouble ahead for the fabled 'Island of the Gods': "I think in the next 20 years, we might not be recognized as a paradise island any more because paradise should not be congested, paradise should not be stinky."

In order to save the island, Balifokus is currently developing projects for sewage treatment in cooperation with the Bremen Overseas Research and Development Association, or BORDA, from the German city of Bremen. In 2009, Balifokus' director Yuyun Ismawati was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for grassroots environmental action.

Author: Bernd Musch-Borowska (tb)
Editor: Arun Chowdhury

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