Church agency aids Indonesian drought victims

Caritas is providing urgent water supplies and identifying underground sources such as springs and bores
Church agency aids Indonesian drought victims

Agricultural land in Indonesia's East Nusa Tenggara province has become dry due to prolonged drought in this August 2015 file photo. This year's drought has led to crop failures in at least seven provinces. (Photo by Ryan Dagur/ucanews.com)

Tanks of clean water are being rushed to drought-plagued areas of Central Java in Indonesia by Catholic charity Caritas.

"We have formed a network of 47 volunteers and distributed 49 tanks of clean water to six villages in Yogyakarta province's Gunung Kidul district in coordination with the local government," said Sister Huberta from Caritas.

She is Caritas program manager for disaster risk reduction in the Archdiocese of Semarang.

The nun, from the Congregation of Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, said the district was chosen for assistance because it has become particularly dry and barren.

The Archdiocese of Semarang covers Central Java and Yogyakarta provinces and has four vicariates — Kedu, Semarang, Surakarta and Yogyakarta.

In the coming fortnight, another two villages will receive 62 5,000-liter tanks of clean water, Sister Huberta said.

The charity also conducts assessments of potential for additional water resources in the district, such as springs and bores.

Eko Budianto, a local leader in Bendo Gede hamlet of Sumbergiri village, said that villagers have to ride motorbikes for about five kilometers to get clean water. 

"Most of us are farmers who plant corn and cassava,” he said, adding that many of the village’s 5,000 inhabitants also find it difficult to feed their livestock.

"Now our agricultural land is so dry we cannot harvest good quality crops," he said. "Our village needs clean water. We would be very thankful if the government could prepare artificial rain."

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency, known by the Indonesian acronym BNPB, has said that 1,969 villages in 79 districts of seven provinces — Central Java, East Java, West Java, Yogyakarta, East Nusa Tenggara, West Nusa Tenggara and Bali — are affected.

Severe drought conditions since May have been attributed to the so-called El Nino phenomenon, which is associated with a band of warm water that develops in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

According to the Agriculture Ministry, the drought has affected 102,746 hectares of rice fields, 9,358 hectares of which have failed to produce crops.

In Central Java and Yogyakarta provinces, for example, 38,948 hectares of rice fields are affected.

BNPB spokeswoman Rita Rosita Simatupang told ucanews.com that artificial rainmaking is one of the short-term measures being implemented by the government. Other responses include supplementary water storage and constructing bores.

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"Long-term measures include river bank revitalization and reforestation," she said.

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