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Focus on critical water issues in Indonesia

By Leanne Miles

Kambaniru weir in Sumba, NTT, was inspected by the CDU team and recommendations for its repair were proposed Kambaniru weir in Sumba, NTT, was inspected by the CDU team and recommendations for its repair were proposed

Researchers from Charles Darwin University have travelled to Indonesia as part of a program aiming to provide local communities with improved irrigation infrastructure for greater food and water security in Eastern Indonesia.

The research team covered a wide range of expertise including environmental and social scientists, and engineers, who met with colleagues from Nusa Cendana University and community members in East Nusa Tenggara province.

Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods Dr Penny Wurm said that East Nusa Tenggara was one of Indonesia's poorest provinces with the population largely dependent on subsistence rain-fed agriculture.

“Many households do not have access to adequate sanitation, and productivity is also limited by the long dry season with food shortages occurring annually,” Dr Wurm said.

She said the overall aim of the project, funded through the Australia-Indonesia Infrastructure Research Awards and Indonesia Infrastructure Initiative, was to increase the effectiveness of irrigation infrastructure in NTT province to improve the livelihoods of the rural population. The project was also looking at access to water for household sanitation purposes.

“There are many problems with irrigation systems in NTT, however more are still being constructed,” she said.

“As part of the visit we held participatory workshops aimed to build capacity of local people in research, infrastructure appraisal, and governance.”

The group visited several sites to conduct water quality testing, erosion assessments and weir inspections.

Professor of Civil Engineering Charlie Fairfield said that many of the catchments in NTT were classified as “critical” nationally.

“The main catchments are the Noelmina and Benanain in West Timor, the Kambaniru in East Sumba, and the Aesesa in central Flores,” Professor Fairfield said.

“These catchments are highly erodible and water use is largely unregulated and unmonitored.”

Working with Indonesian colleagues at the University of Nusa Cendana, and the community in NTT, the CDU team (Dr Bronwyn Myers, Dr Penny Wurm, Sarah Hobgen, Sam Pickering, Associate Professor Emma Williams, Professor Charlie Fairfield, Professor Ken Evans, and Professor Wayne Erskine) are providing recommendations for the repair, rehabilitation, and proposed monitoring of these catchments.