Sustainable Development in East Indonesia
    Category: Column By : Scott Younger Read : 762 Date : Monday, June 20, 2016 - 01:53:56

    East Indonesia, the least developed part of the archipelago, is now receiving much government attention, particularly its huge marine resource potential. Combining the land and sea area encompassed within this region provides half of the total area of the archipelago, but the population of about 12 million is only about 4.5% of the country’s total.

    Apart from the midsized towns of Jayapura, Ambon and Kupang, with populations around 330,000, plus a few other coastal communities of 20,000 to 100,000 people, the vast majority in the region live in small to medium sized villages, often with poor access and inadequate water and power facilities. The geography of the area, along with the scattering of most communities, indicates taking a different approach to its sustainable economic development.

    On the macro-scale, water availability differs between Papua, which has ample rainfall and large perennial rivers, and the southernmost islands of East Nusa Tenggara, which are significantly drier to the point of serious water deficit. There is usually an appropriate solution to every case. However, the communities must take part, so that they have responsibility for water conservation and maintenance. Most communities will not have, nor do they need, service by regional water companies (PDAMs), as they require a reasonably sized population base, a sound and steady water supply and a relatively flat topography. 

    For those at higher elevations, water can come from groundwater wells, or through springs, and be supplemented by collecting rainwater in tanks (cubangs). The East Bali project operates in one of Indonesia’s drier climates, and water comes from rainwater, supplemented with piped water from springs. Before this, villagers had to walk many hours for water.

    While the larger coastal towns can justify provision of a local electricity grid, what most communities need is an off-grid electrical power for light, and telecom connections. Sometimes water is available for microhydro schemes but, since East Indonesia is one of the world’s sunnier locations, many communities could benefit from setting up local solar systems, with normal array structures supplemented by batteries, which have improved in the past few years. This approach could transform East Indonesia community development. Putting in solar panels into the schools of the East Bali Poverty Project allowed the introduction of education, previously missing, and changed the lives of the mountain people of northeast Bali. State energy company PLN recently announced it is to focus on renewable solutions for remote villages, especially in East Indonesia, with a stated target to end 2019.

    In summary, so much can be done at quite modest cost to improve the life of East Indonesia communities. The overall approach must be different from that focusing on the densely populated and more accessible, and developed, western regions of Indonesia. Improved livelihoods in East Indonesia will go a long way to support the maritime strategy for this area. Cost per capita small, results priceless.