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The Water Pipeline Helps Create Peace

August 31, 2010

The heat of the afternoon sun baked a barren hill located in the villages of Were I, Radabata, and Dadawea. Only part of lands in the three villages is covered by shrubs and trees.

Dusts and gravels are occasionally kicked into the air by the footsteps of the villagers. In the hard nature, rain takes place only for three months a year. As a result, water is a scarce thing. Water has continuously been fought for years, and it even frequently becomes a source of conflict. The conflict is more widely spread as it is triggered by the seizure of tribal lands, particularly by the villagers of Were I and Radabata.

However, all that remains a story of the past. Some 5,000 villagers can now enjoy clean water peacefully. A nine-kilometer water pipeline deriving from a gravity well located on the hill, passing through the three villages in the Golewa Sub-District, Ngada District, East Nusa Tenggara, has changed everything. Calmness and peace among the villagers are created.
The clean water which often becomes a source of fight and conflict in the three villages is actually a unifying factor. As they finally realized that before peace is created, there will be no clean water flowing through their villages.
Though the incident happened several years ago, it is still recorded in the minds of the villagers. Conflict was originated from the seizure of tribal lands occurring in 2002 among the tribes in the villages of Were I and Radabata.

"The incident was horrible," said Emilianus Radho, a villager of Were I. "There were victims who were beheaded, and taken to an open field. Though the District Head intervened to reconcile them, the process took a very long time, "said Emilianus who is also a principal of Primary School SD Kawer 1.

The peace sought by the government has not fully guarantee the unity and security in the two villages. "The severed head was taken to the Sector Police Office of Mataloko, Golewa District, showing that there was a conflict. The perpetrator had been punished and there were words of peace, but not yet convincing, "said Frans Pito, the Head of the Community Empowerment for Rural Development Agency, Ngada District, East Nusa Tenggara.

There was finally a desire to build a water pipeline by the villagers of Were I, Radabata, and Dadawea. However, the spring was situated on the hills in the area of Were I Village. Without a unity, construction of a gravity well and a water pipeline passing through the three villages would be difficult.

"If the villagers of Were I do not allow the water to be channeled to Radabata and Dadawea, the construction of the pipeline facilitating the villagers to obtain clean water will be threatened to fail," said Frans Pito.

The need for clean water has overcome all the remnants of conflict which are still encountered. Through a pilot project of the Program of Enhancing Participatory Development Systems under the National Program for Community Empowerment (PNPM) Mandiri, in 2008/2009 gravity well and clean water pipe facilities were built. The condition was that the three villages had to collectively build and maintain the installation.

"A cooperation body among the villages and a village drinking water organization are established especially for the three villages, the members of which are representatives of the three villages. Because of the water, they are interdependent. A problem occurring at one point of the water pipe will have an effect on the flow of water to the other village. As a result, the problem must be discussed together, "said Frans Pito.

Villager Participation
The flow of water to the villages provides relief. Nearly 65 years since the Indonesian independence, only in the last one year the villagers of the “eastern Indonesia guard" have obtained tap water, just a few steps from their homes, yes, clean water that actually becomes their basic right.

Johanes (43), a villager born and raised in Dadawea Village, is among those who had gone through the guerrilla for years along the river, pushing a cart containing jerry cans to get water. "Last time, at four o'clock in the morning I had pushed a cart to look for water. Now, the cart has become an old bus and is only parked, "he said.

The other villager, Wihelmina (63), sometimes had to look for water by taking a walk up to ten kilometers, passing by several villages. "We specifically prepared one day to take water for bathing and drinking. After the kitchen and the tub were full of water, only then I could work again in the garden. The water obtained for one day was used for one week. Taking a bath was only twice a week. But at the present time, I can take a shower every time I return from the garden," he said.

The Head of Golewa Sub-district Anton Padua Ngea told that in 2006 there was actually a rain water collector in the form of a big tank. However, according to Anton, there were mosquito larvae in the water. As a result, the water was considered unsafe to drink. In addition, when the dry season came, the issue of water scarcity reoccurred.

As a matter of fact, the rainy season in NTT usually takes place only for three months, commencing from December to February. When water is difficult to obtain, skin diseases, diarrhea and respiratory infections are again part of the life of the people of the villages. Children taking a bath in the river are often infected with intestinal worms.

According to Frans Pito, the development of water supply and sanitation facilities is prioritized in Ngada. "Topography of NTT requires specific solutions. Areas which are not possible to be supplied with clean water with a gravity model are forced to use rain water collection tanks. Such areas cover around 30-40 percent, usually at the top of the hill. There are also areas using hydrant and pump systems, but not many, "said Frans Pito.

The infrastructure development through PNPM Mandiri was later also integrated with the local government development programs, involving community participation. "We hope that people also have a sense of belonging and maintaining the development results," he said.

It is indeed not easy to supply a drop of clean water in dry and hilly areas like in these areas…...