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The break of Situ Gintung embankment in Tangerang led to flash flood disaster on the end of March 2009. Some mass media reported that actually the community in Situ Gintung had asked the government to rehabilitate the embankment because they found it cracked, but it was no respond, and then disaster occurred. The losses due to this disaster are unaccountable. Situ Gintung located in Pesanggrahan River watershed is an earth dam constructed by Dutch government in early 1930s. Usually, situ which could be natural and man-made, or embung (artificial pond popular in Central Java and Nusa Tenggara) is constructed for controlling flooding, storing water and supplying irrigation water demand. A man-made construction such as dam and artificial pond has different characteristic compared with natural creature like river, natural wetland, and lake. Man-made construction and infrastructures require appropriate management to ensure their sustainability. Unfortunately, most of water infrastructure in Indonesia such as Situ Gintung is poorly-managed. This poor condition also exists in several big dams, embung, situ and irrigation infrastructure in Java Island.

There are hundreds of dams, situ and embung in Java Island which could have similar potential risk as occurred in Situ Gintung. It seems that there is a common problem in this country that building new structures is more interesting and more rewarding than practicing proper management including operation and maintenance. The government often said that there was financial constraint, so there was no maintenance budget available. If there is no management improvement, it is possible that such disaster occurred in Situ Gintung could be happened in other places in this country.

According to Coates et al (2004), there is a package of criteria for the success of any development project including water sector project, i.e. sustainability, effectiveness, efficiency, equity, and replicability. In the project context, sustainability concerns the extent to which interventions and new services continue to operate satisfactorily and generate benefits over their planned life. The intention is that services developed by the project or infrastructure will continue to operate long after the project implementation period has ended. Furthermore, project outcomes should also support overall environmental sustainability. Based on this point of view, it can be said that Situ Gintung which had cracked-embankment and stressed by human settlement in its surrounding, or several big dams in this country which have high sedimentation problem is less sustainable.

In addition, there are several aspect should be considered to ensure the infrastructure sustainability, including social, technical, environmental, financial, economical, legal and institutional aspects. Water infrastructure must give economic benefits for the whole community, and should not give negative impact to the community and environment located downstream and its surrounding. Furthermore, operation and maintenance is part of technical aspect which must be financially supported, because it is impossible to operate and maintain an infrastructure if there is no budget.

According to Coates et al (2004), the sustainability of any water sector project will depend partially on the quality of cooperation by the community at various stage of project implementation and afterwards. Community involvement is part of social aspect that is usually less considered in some projects. The infrastructure will not be sustainable if there is no community participation, especially in operation and maintenance activities. When a water infrastructure available, the community will get advantages, therefore they should be able and willing to look after the infrastructure. However, government support is needed to encourage the community. An incentive-based mechanism might be the best approach to encourage community to maintain the infrastructure and its environment. This approach also can support poverty reduction program. The government should support community capacity building as well, by conducting training or workshop required.

In addition, water infrastructure is usually managed by river basin organisation (RBO) or water resources agency under RBO level. Collaboration between government and RBO is necessary in managing water infrastructure in a catchment area. This collaboration is required to reduce fragmented and overlapping responsibilities between them. The RBO or water resources agency supported by the government should regularly conduct monitoring and inspection activities to check the water infrastructure condition, and they also have responsibility to disseminate inspection findings to the community, therefore the community living in its surrounding know exactly about the infrastructure condition.

In a water infrastructure such as dam, usually there is a conservation and water catchment zone. There must be no human settlement and impermeable building constructed on conservation and water catchment zone. However, it does not work in many places in Indonesia. Therefore, the other important factors to ensure water infrastructure sustainability are regulation, policy arrangement, institutional reform and law enforcement. These factors are absolutely important to reduce corruption and diminish law breaking.

It is useless to blame each other when the disaster occurs. Our challenge now is improving the management of existing infrastructures therefore they operate satisfactorily and generate benefits over their planned life instead of causing catastrophic disaster.


Author: P.S.Pudyastuti

I am an academic staff at Civil Engineering Department, Faculty of Engineering, Universitas Muhammadiyah Surakarta - Indonesia. I got my Bachelor Degree (ST) from Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia, and Master Degree (M.Sc) from Loughborough University, England. I am married and have got 3 children.

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