Activists Take Shower Together in Front of Jakarta City Hall to Protest Water Privatization

Activists wait their turn to take a shower in front of Jakarta City Hall on Thursday (22/03) to protest water privatization in the capital city. (Antara Photo/Rivan Awal Lingga)

By : Dames Alexander Sinaga | on 3:40 PM March 23, 2018
Category : News, Jakarta, Environment, Human Rights

Jakarta. Dozens of residents and activists from a group called Coalition of Jakarta Residents Opposing Water Privatization, or KMMSAJ, took a shower together in front of Jakarta City Hall on Thursday (22/03) to protest the privatization of the capital’s water system.

The protest, dubbed "Take a Shower Together," was held on World Water Day and called on Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan to adhere to a Supreme Court ruling issued last year that ordered the end to water privatization in the capital.

"Water privatization has made water too expensive for many Jakarta residents," KMMSAJ said in a statement.

The protesters urged the Jakarta administration not to extend contracts between city-owned water operator PAM Jaya and two private water companies, PAM Lyonnaise Jaya (Palyja) and Aetra Air Jakarta (Aetra).

The Supreme Court in its ruling had declared the contracts null and void on the grounds that they had failed to meet Jakarta residents' right to water.

The three companies have been in partnerships since 1997 when Palyja and Aetra were granted the rights to produce and distribute clean water in the capital.

The coalition urged Anies to revoke a 1997 Gubernatorial Letter on Water Privatization and terminate the contracts between PAM Jaya, Palyja and Aetra.

History of Water Privatization in Jakarta

According to a Human Rights Watch report, the history of water privatization in Jakarta goes back to the 1990s when President Suharto decided to allow private companies to manage the city's water system, ostensibly to improve services.

In the late 1990s, British firm Thames and French firm Suez began to work with the government, eventually gaining exclusive rights to provide clean water to residents in the capital.

Huge losses were accrued by city-owned PAM Jaya, but guaranteed profits flowed into the private companies' coffers and their performance targets were repeatedly lowered.

Investors benefited from exorbitant water tariff while the poor were locked out of the water system, forcing more than 60 percent of Jakarta's residents to rely on increasingly polluted groundwater.

A woman holds a glass of purchased water, left, and a glass of water from an underground well in Kamal Muara, North Jakarta, where the ground water is unfit for consumption. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro) A woman holds a glass of purchased water, left, and a glass of water from an underground well in Kamal Muara, North Jakarta, where the ground water is unfit for consumption. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Human Right to Water

"Disconnection of water services... constitutes a violation of the human right to water," three United Nations water experts concluded in 2014.

March 22 was designated World Water Day by the UN General Assembly in 1992, following a conference on the environment and development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

The annual event was launched to draw international attention to the shortage of clean and safe drinking water worldwide.

The theme of World Water Day 2018 is "Nature for Water."

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