One Woman’s Mission in Jakarta


JAKARTA, Indonesia — With most household waste entering directly into nearby rivers and poorly constructed septic tanks, sewage and other pollutants permeate the ground, leaking into the water supply of urban Indonesia. Dyah Marganingrum is working to change this.

Indonesia, with a population of approximately 250 million, is the 4th most populated country in the world. Over 37 million Indonesians lack safe water and 102 million lack sanitation. Indonesia’s sanitation infrastructure problems are compounded by the 63 million who still practice open defecation. Infant mortality rate in Indonesia stands at 2.5 percent and 43 percent of the population lives on less than 26,660 Indonesian rupiah (two dollars) per day, too poor to access clean water for drinking and washing.

Unsanitary conditions and water related diseases have deadly results killing droves of children around the world daily. Every 10 minutes a child dies from water related illness. Diarrhea kills children at a rate equivalent to a jumbo jet crashing every 10 hours. An estimated 622,000 children under the age of 5 die each year from diarrheal diseases globally. With proper sanitation, these numbers could be greatly reduced. Improved sanitation facilities are estimated to result in an average reduction in cases of diarrhea by approximately 28 percent and washing hands with soap has been found to reduce diarrhea by approximately 23 percent.

Dyah Marganingrum, a scientist researching water resources management at the Research Centre for Geo Technology and a recent member of the ASEAN-U.S. Science and Technology Fellows Program supported by the United States Agency for International Development, promotes better water resource management in Indonesia.

Dyah Marganingrum joined the ASEAN-U.S. Science and Technology Fellows Program in 2014. The program offers budding scientists across Asia an opportunity to become involved in their country’s policy making process. The scientists apply innovative new ideas and technology advancing science based decisions in fields such as biodiversity, clean energy, fisheries and coastal management to ultimately impact policy decisions and help their national governments achieve shared ASEAN goals and objectives.

According to USAID, Indonesia’s Ministry of National Development Planning states that nearly 70 percent of urban households do not have access to a piped water supply and 30 percent do not have access to the most basic sanitation.

Dyah Marganingrum has been working to improve water conditions in the Bandung area of West Java, Indonesia and surrounding areas for approximately 16 years and believes that better access to safe water and sanitation are key to improving public health, the economy and the environment.

Compounding on the domestic waste in city slums is pollution attributed to small-scale industries such as agriculture, textile, pulp and paper, petrochemical, mining and oil and gas. According to the Water Environment Partnership in Asia, or WEPA, water quality in locations near mining areas are potentially contaminated by heavy metals such as mercury.

In South East Asia and Indonesia particularly, demand for water has increased sharply in recent years while domestic waste, industrial activity and environment degradation has escalated dramatically. Clearly, if there is any chance to enrich the quality of life for Indonesians, the work done by aggressive emerging scientists like Dyah Marganingrum are imperative.

Jason Zimmerman

Sources: US Embassy, USAID 1, WEPA, WHO,, USAID 2
Photo: Flickr


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