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Hukum Air (Water Law) is not really a topic in Indonesia

Monday, May 24, 2010


I tried googling “water law” in Google.com (the Indonesian term is “hukum air”) and on the first google page, I found no reference to any site relevant to my search. If you click on the link, you will find that everything on the page is related to the religious law pertaining water for prayers or religious activities. None of them refers to water law.


I then googled “privatisasi air” (water privatization). Voila, everything in the first page is relevant. I scrolled down unto the 6th page, and everything reflects the true meaning of my google query.


From my queries, I can infer that water law is simply not (yet) a substantial part of the public discourse. But conversely, privatization is. So talks about water in Indonesia is dominated with the privatization discourse. What is interesting, the discourse of water privatization is much focused in the privatization of ‘water utilities’. If you speak bahasa Indonesia and google “privatisasi air”, you will find that most of the pages are critical towards the privatization of water utilities. Only one or two discusses water privatization in another context. Another thing: almost none (at least in google’s 1-3rd page) discusses sanitation.

On the one hand, it is a positive thing that privatisation is becoming a part of public discourse, but on the other hand, it is a pity that the debate is dominated only with privatisation of water utilities. What we need now is a better governance of our water (both resources and services) and law, is an important tool of governance. Privatization of utilities is only a small – albeit important and vital – part where law comes into play. But that’s not everything. We also need to think on how our resources is managed and how our services (both when they are public and private) are run.

It is not adequate for us to speak “against privatization”. We must also say what should be done when privatization is already the fact of life and what should be done when public ownership becomes the mode of delivery. Irrespective of the model (privatization or public ownership), in the end of the day, it is the consumer that needs to be defended. They need water to flow to their tap and they need the law to be on their side.  

Hence, water law should be in the discourse.

ps: if your google search (for hukum air) returns this post on the first page, then we might have contributed the “hukum air” meme into the discourse

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Supreme Court Decision on Water Monopoly in Batam
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Human Right  Aspects of Private Sector Participation in the Water Sector
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The human right to water is not a property right
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Consultation on the Human Right  Aspects of Private Sector Participation in the Water Sector: more responses from the private sector
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Transparency Agenda in Water Utilities Regulation