Launch of

18 May 2006
Article
 

Launch of Reclaiming public water in Indonesian

Background: Nila Ardhianie, director of the Solo-based Amrta Institute for Water Literacy, took the initiative for the translation of "Reclaiming Public Water" into bahasa Indonesia; TNI made it possible with a financial contribution. Santiago Arconada (formerly of the water utilities Hidrocapital and Hidroven, Venezuela, now advisor to the minister of environment, the former head of Hidroven) and Olivier Hoedeman were invited as co-authors of the book; also Charles Santiago from Malaysia attended one of the launch seminars.

Jakarta book launch seminar (15 August 2005)
was held in Jakarta’s Goethe-Institute. Among the 50-60 participants were representatives of government agencies, NGOs, water sector professionals, but also the World Bank and the Dutch Embassy was represented. Olvier raised the issue of the Dutch double standards: efficient public water corporations at home and a new water law banning the private sector from water delivery, while at the same time promoting PPPs and other forms of expanded private sector role in developing countries. Mr. Mebius from the Dutch embassy urged it but he admitted that that we need to take initiative in The Netherlands to challenge Minister Van Ardenne’s ideology-driven PPP promotion and end the bizarre situation that Dutch water utilities that want to assist utilities in developing countries can get government support for this by applying for funding for a PPP project. Charles’s speech was received very well. He introduced the water utility of Penang as a model for improving the performance of other utilities in Malaysia, via public-public partnerships. Olivier and Charles agreed the need for a concerted international effort to further develop and promote the concept of public-public partnerships and the fact that NGOs can play a facilitating and intermediary role. There may also be a role for something like a "Friends of Public-Public Partnerships" network (to promote the concept). A funding application to secure a budget for something like this would be worth considering

Workshop on water campaigning in Indonesia (16 August 2005)
- with activists and unionists opposed to water privatisation. Not only activists and unionists (including ones from Suez and Thames Water who each control one half of the city’s water supply) want to deprivatise Jakarta’s water, also majorities in the city council and the parliament want this, but in practice it is not feasable: law suits and compensation to the companies would make it too costly. This is a terrible situation, which needs to be highlighted and challenged. In the meeting, Santiago indicated that he would talk to the Venezuelan government (which has more financial resources than before because of the booming oil prices) about the possibility for a South-South partnership to support public water delivery in Indonesia.

Nila Ardhianie organised a full day of visits for us to the largest TV stations in Indonesia and the influential weekly magazine Tempo (19 August).

Solo(central Java) Book launch seminar (18 August 18).
A full room of 70-80 people, many from water utilities in the region^ attended including the mayor of Solo and the director of Solo’s water utility (PDAM) Pa Abimanyu. Solo is one of the most efficient and well-performing utilities in Indonesia but still has been added in the top of the government’s list of PDAM’s that are to be privatised. Abimanyu considers this very unlogical and unfair, but think the reason is that Solo is a desirable object of private water companies (the groundwork has already been done) so the government can use it as an example of "successful privatisation".

Santiago’s speech highlighted that the objective of water systems should be to secure health and well-being, not to make money, and should therefore not be left to market forces. Participatory water management in Venezuela has resulted in a growing awareness of water in general, not just what comes out of the tap, but the whole water cycle.

Visit Danone’s bottled water plant (17 August)
Danone is one of the biggest producers of bottled water in Indonesia; together with Nestle and Coca Cola. The three multinationals control 70% of the bottled water market. The plant, built in 2001, over-exploits the water source, with dramatic impacts on local farmers. The water level in the river has dropped to only 1/5 or less of levels before the plant started operating. Over 70,000 hectares of farmland are affected by Danone’s plant.