Indonesia was struck by several natural disasters in 2018, including the earthquake in Lombok, earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Palu as well as the tsunami in the Sunda Strait. Each of which had devastating consequences for the local population due to fatalities, destruction of property and the interruption of basic needs and services. Palu had particularly devastating circumstances due to its isolated geographic location and the high magnitude of the earthquake.
The 7.4 magnitude earthquake occurred on the 28th of September and was followed by a tsunami as well as soil liquefaction. The worst-hit areas were Palu, a city of around 300,000 inhabitants, and the Donggala district, home to around 270,000 inhabitants, and suffered around 2,000 deaths. Houses, bridges, roads, communication, and water infrastructure were all affected by the various natural disasters.
The lack of communication was a significant challenge in assessing the situation in Palu, however by October 1st, three days after the natural disaster, a team member from PERPAMSI as well as two members from the Makassar Water Utility went to Palu to survey the situation. Members of the Makassar utility were able to reach Palu faster by car as for the first few days there were no incoming flights. By October 4th a larger team consisting of fourteen technical members from the Makassar Water Utility and one PERPAMSI member were able to reach Palu by road, bringing equipment such as pipes, machinery, and fuel.
As a WOP facilitator, PERPAMSI helps its utility members support one another in building their capacity. The association also focuses on national partnerships. These WOPs focus on working together with the government and national utilities to improve performance and create an equitable and prosperous society based on solidarity and mutual support within the field of water and sanitation.
The standard operating practices (SOPs) for PERPAMSI in the case of natural disasters include 1) Contacting regional members/directors in the affected areas, 2) Analyzing the situation and the emergency needs, 3) Internal and external mobilization of assistance, 4) Mission assistance for the directors of water utilities in the area and lastly, 5) Monitoring and evaluation of their progress and impact.
The damage done to the pipeline was tremendous; 80% of the transmission and distribution pipes were impaired. The most urgent short-term needs included technical assistance, equipment, and materials; however, in the case of Palu, it was difficult to reach the affected areas and challenging to bring the required tools. Furthermore, employees of the water utilities affected were absent from their work due to the personal impact of the disaster.
The first team of staff came from the Makassar utility as they were able to reach the affected areas in a shorter time. However, the second batch of volunteers was comprised of staff from five water utilities, Malang City, Surabaya, Pontianak, Balikpapan, and Samarinda. Each sent two members from their technical team for two weeks. The teams were split into two areas, southwest Palu and northeast Palu to repair the distribution network, to improve the intake pipe and to repair pumps. The arrival of technical assistance helped greatly in boosting the morale and spirits of the Palu water utility employees.
The conditions for the peer utility staff who were helping out were difficult. When they first arrived in Palu, they had to replace the original employees who were taking care of their families. Many staff slept on makeshift beds on the floor of the utility’s offices. Technical personnel also perceived progress as relatively slow due to the lack of tools and equipment which had to be imported. Each evening, the teams would recap what they had achieved and the challenges they had faced.
"Yes, the PDAM work area is underground. We have to dig using unconventional crowbar and hoes, because of limited equipment, "explained Marsudi, (staff of Organization Empowerment Bureau of PERPAMSI).
During the second week of their work, the community started to fight over access to water. Some pipes were damaged by a machete and team members needed to ask for further security to ensure their safety while executing repairs. Ultimately, three members of the National Armed Forces joined the team.
A new financial plan will be put in place at the Donggala PDMA to allow for financial resources to be used for disaster mitigation. Furthermore, there was a visit with the Japanese Ministry of Health for a long-term reconstruction proposal that would support infrastructure in a disaster-prone area.
Therefore, the situation in Palu reinforced the importance of mobilizing materials and equipment as well as technical assistance through members from other water utilities.
As Dwike Riantara, Head of Organizational Empowerment Bureau, at PERPAMSI says "Helping one another is a tradition of Indonesian water utilities. Solidarity spirit does exist. Like in a big family, you will always be there when a family member needs you."
PERPAMSI continues to play an integral role in the improvement of utilities as well as overseeing and connecting members, working towards mutual support and mobilizing these forms of collaboration.