Keterangan Foto Desa Sungai Lumpur, desa terpadat di sepanjang pesisir Kab. OKI. Permukiman penduduk di desa ini dikelilingi oleh hutan mangrove, tambak, dan muara sungai. © Dhika Rhino Pratama/YKAN


Free Fresh Water when Rains Come in Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI)

That morning, heavy rain poured down on a village on the OKI coast at the eastern tip of South Sumatra. The 150-liter blue plastic drum quickly fills with rainwater from the roof tiles via a pipe or hose. Residents are happy to get clean water for their daily lives. OKI is one of the locations for the mangrove ecosystem restoration program implemented by YKAN and its partners. The OKI coast, which is +/- 200 km from Palembang, is one of the isolated areas in South Sumatra Province. It takes a long journey of 100 km by road and 100 km by river to reach Sungai Lumpur Village on the OKI coast.

Read: The Urgency of Protecting Wetlands for a Sustainable Life

Rainwater is the only source of free, clean water, while well water only produces brackish water. Therefore, residents on the OKI coast rely heavily on rainwater for their daily needs, from cooking to bathing to washing dishes. When it rains, it is a very precious moment.

Photo Caption A simple rainwater collection and storage system in Simpang Tiga Abadi Village, Ogan Komering Ilir Regency, South Sumatra Province. Rainwater from the roof tiles will be led by a hose into a plastic drum. © A. Yoseph Wihartono/YKAN

When the long summer arrives, they usually face tough challenges. When rainwater reserves run out, they have to adapt in other ways. To drink or cook, they are forced to use bottled water. Meanwhile, some use river water for bathing and washing, and others use brackish water.

Using river water for bathing sometimes causes itchy skin. This happens when river water, usually brown, suddenly turns bright. The community suspects that this happened because of fertilizer waste from nearby plantations.

This is one story about coastal communities in South Sumatra. In other parts of the world, many similar things still happen. This story seeks to remind us all to use clean water wisely.

On the OKI coast, the YKAN mangrove ecosystem restoration program is not directly related to providing clean human water. However, preserving the mangrove ecosystem can improve water quality in coastal areas. Mangrove forests can purify water on the coast to support life for various living creatures, such as fish, shrimp, crabs, and shellfish, which are also a source of human livelihood.