The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Squatters who have for years lived in Tanah Merah, North Jakarta, say they are still unable to get clean water from the city-owned water company.
The unfortunate squatters have even been accused of stealing piped water.
"Since 2005, we have been asking for clean water from the city administration. But they have never responded to our requests. We never intended to steal," said resident Sutriman on Wednesday.
There are some 750 families currently residing in Tanah Merah, which include the Tugu Selatan, Rawa Badak and Rawa Sengon areas.
The unlawful tenants do not qualify to get clean water because they do not own identity cards (KTP) and do not pay land and building taxes.
"We want to be good citizens and we asked the district head to provide us with identity cards, but our requests were rejected. Not once, but several times. We are willing to pay the tax too, but are not able to because we cannot register at the tax office," he added.
"We did not steal. This water pipe was already present when we came here. We don't even know who installed it," said Sutriman of the illegal water pipe found in Tanah Merah.
Tap water operator company PT Thames PAM Jaya (TPJ) claims the illegal use of water in Tanah Merah has caused a total loss of 8,000 cubic meters of water.
The company took reporters and Governor Sutiyoso on Wednesday to view an old well in Tanah Merah where a 1,800 mm illegal water pipe was allegedly being used.
The pipe could not be seen, however, and only trash was found on the inside of what seemed to be a dysfunctional well.
Sianne, 39, another resident from the Rawa Sengon area, said the well had been dry for years.
"Yes, we used to take water from the well," she said.
Sianne and her neighbors said that due to the lack of running water they were forced to purchase clean water, at a cost of Rp 3,000 per 30 liter container.
Sianne, who first moved to Tanah Merah in 1998, said "In the past four or five years, we have had to buy water from a mobile water vendor, who sells door-to-door."
The regional customer care manager of TPJ in North Jakarta, Popy Indriati, said "The squatters keep reconnecting the pipe, even after we have disconnected it more than three times before."
Sutiyoso said using tap water without paying is against the law.
"However, water is a vital necessity. Providing a water hydrant might be an alternative solution, which will hopefully stop tenants from using illegal connections," he said.
Sutriman said "I beg you Sir. Water is important for us. We cannot use ground water in this area. When we take a bath, it makes us itch. It changes the color of our clothes when we use it to wash them."
Sianne pointed to red marks on her skin and that of her baby's, which had appeared after using dirty groundwater for bathing.
TPJ claims the company currently experiences a 51 percent loss of its total water supply, which amounts to some Rp 150 billion to Rp 200 billion in revenue loss a year. It says that 40 percent of this loss is due to illegal connections and consumption, or "stolen" water, while the remaining 60 percent is due to water lost through old leaking pipes and wells.