Jakarta (ANTARA) - An El Niño-induced severe dry spell has cast a pall over 100 districts and cities in Indonesia’s provinces of Aceh, West Java, Central Java, Yogyakarta, East Java, West Nusa Tenggara, and East Nusa Tenggara.

Most parts of Java, Bali, and Nusa Tenggara have not received rains for nearly 60 days. The extreme dry season has impacted 102,746 hectares (ha) of agricultural area and ruined 9,358 ha.

The National Meteorological, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has forecast extreme dry season until September, with the condition likely to peak in August.

The government has forecast that the current drought, which is drier than that of last year, would spread to 28 out of the country’s 34 provinces, and could affect 48,491,666 people and leave 11,774,437 ha areas parched.

A total of 55 district and municipal administrations in the seven provinces have declared a state of emergency in their regions over drought.

The authorities have built artesian wells in several areas and supplied over seven million liters of clean water, out of the 15 million liters to be distributed.

The government has prepared 15,665 thousand liters of water to be dispatched to 1,969 villages, Agus Wibowo, spokesman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), stated.

In the meantime, the Public Works and Public Housing (PUPR) Ministry inspected the availability of clean water in dams, lakes, and reservoirs in regions, as the severe dry season has resulted in a water crisis.

"During drought, the supply of clean water (for households) is a priority and next is for agricultural irrigation," PUPR Minister Basuki Hadimuljono had noted in a statement on July 7, 2019.

The ministry checked the availability of clean water in 231 dams, including 16 major dams, each with a capacity to hold 50 million cubic meters of water. Of the major dams, water levels are normal in the eight dams of Cirata, Saguling, Betutegi, Wadaslintang, Bili-Bili, Kalola, Way Rarem, and Ponre-ponre.

Water levels in eight other major dams -- Jatiluhur, Kedungombo, Wonogiri, Sutami, Wonorejo, Cacaban, Selorejo, and Batu Bulan -- are below normal.

Based on data as of June 30, 2019, the water volume in the six major dams totaled 3,858.25 million cubic meters, out of their effective capacity of nearly six million cubic meters.

Furthermore, the ministry monitored the availability of water in a total of 1,922 reservoirs, of which some 63.2 percent, or 1,214 reservoirs, had normal water levels, while 36.8 percent, or 708 reservoirs, had below-normal water levels.

The ministry has also dispatched one thousand centrifugal pumps to 34 provinces across the country.

Moreover, the ministry has optimized a total of 7,471 artesian wells in the 34 provinces and built 428 new artesian wells in regions left parched by the dry spell, such as in Gunung Kidul, Central Java Island.

The ministry has provided some 242 water tanker trucks to supply clean water to people facing water shortages. Each water tanker truck can hold five thousand liters of clean water supplied to 1,300 people per day.

The demand for drinking water in drought-hit regions is estimated at 31 thousand cubic meters per day. A total of 1,674 water tanker trucks had been readied through support of regional governments and disaster mitigation officers.

In response to the prolonged drought, the Agency for Technology Assessment and Application (BPPT) has proposed the use of weather modification technology.

"We are trying to calculate (loss) caused by harvest failure. This is just a proposal. How much is the state loss due to the harvest failure? The estimation is up to Rp3 trillion, so we must find a solution to address the drought, and one way out is by inducing artificial rain," Hammam Riza, head of BPPT, stated.

He suggested to apply weather modification technology to produce rain that can help to prevent rice and crop harvest failures.

In the meantime, the latest forecast by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) could be good news for drought-hit nations, such Indonesia.

The temperature of the tropical Pacific Ocean surface will likely return to near-average soon, qualifying for “ENSO-neutral” conditions. Neutral conditions are favored to remain through the fall and winter, NOAA stated in its climate advisory published on July 11, 2019.

El Niño, one of the most important climatic phenomena on Earth, occurs roughly every two to seven years.

Though El Niño is not caused by climate change, it often produces some of the hottest years on record owing to the vast amount of heat rising from the Pacific waters into the overlying atmosphere. Major El Niño events -- such as during 1972-73, 1982-83, 1997-98, and 2015-16 -- have provoked some of the greatest floods, droughts, forest fires, and coral bleaching events of the past half-century.

Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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