Bandung, Indonesia, March 21, 2017 – Indonesia is currently experiencing rapid urbanization, with cities growing faster than any other Asian countries. By the year 2025 it is expected that 67.5% of the country’s population will live in cities.
Challenges come with a high rate of urbanization. One of them is meeting the needs of good management of sanitation facilities.
Yoyok Cahyono Upoyo, who lives in the town of Bekasi in West Java, is among millions of urban dwellers facing sanitation problems.
Most urban families rely on septic tanks located under or close to their houses, but many are not watertight. There is even a popular misperception in Indonesia that a good septic tank is one that leaks, as it will not need to be emptied.
“Most of my neighbors have a septic tank at home. The public well is located near some of them so I know the water is contaminated,” said Yoyok.
He is also aware of the consequences.
“Bacteria from the septic tank is a health hazard to my family, especially my children. They can get diarrhea, or not grow as well as other children their age and will be stunted,” said Yoyok.
Nine million, or 30%, of Indonesian children under the age of five are stunted, and contaminated water due to poor sanitation is an important cause.
Proper toilets widely available but problems still exist
Access to sanitation facilities in Indonesian cities has actually improved; 76% of the urban population already have proper toilets, but problems persists.
“We can’t just stop at ensuring 100% access to proper toilets. We should also keep in mind that only 5% of human waste is properly treated for safe disposal. The remainder still contaminates the environment,” said Tri Dewi Virgiyanti, Director of Housing and Settlement of the National Development Planning Agency.
When septic tanks are emptied, the fecal sludge is often moved to another location such as an open field or river banks. It is also common to see rows of houses along river banks equipped with pipes so waste water from their toilets are disposed of straight into the river.