El Nino-induced drought has begun to hit Indonesia since May, but the impacts have been felt as rivers and dams are drying, harvest failures were reported in some parts of the country, and forest fires hit Sumatra and Kalimantan.
Indonesias Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has warned the nation that drought is forecast to affect regions south of the equator, such as parts of Sumatra, Java Island, Kalimantan, Bali Island, East Nusa Tenggara, and Papua, until November or December this year.
El Nino significantly reduces precipitation and leads to a decline in water reserves and drought. Therefore, agricultural land and forests are the most likely to feel its impacts, Head of the BMKG Andi Eka Sakya said on July 30, 2015.
Demonstrating the governments concern, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) led a limited cabinet meeting in Jakarta, on July 31, to discuss measures to face drought and forest fires caused by the El Nino phenomenon.
The government has paid serious attention to the impacts of El Nino, Jokowi noted during the meeting.
This is particularly important because some 198 thousand hectares of land across Indonesia are prone to face drought every year.
"Drought has begun to hit Java, Sulawesi, Lampung, Bali, and East Nusa Tenggara. Based on the monitoring map, these regions have been experiencing drought triggered by El Nino since May," President Jokowi remarked.
Jokowi explained that the government is providing water pumps as a short-term solution to cope with the drought.
"The agriculture minister is currently distributing water pumps across the country to communities that live in arid areas and are in need of water. Its the fastest response," he added, after opening the 8th Congress of the Indonesian Farmers Association in Pondok Gede, East Jakarta, July 31.
As a long-term solution, the government is set to build thousands of small and large dams, and reservoirs in several locations, Jokowi added.
"The key is to ensure that there are water reservoirs. Dams should be constructed for irrigation. If we have more reservoirs and dams, as well as improve irrigation networks in rice fields, production will increase. However, it is a lengthy process," Jokowi explained.
Moreover, the government has also urged the public to dig absorption wells. "Dont simply complain during drought, while nothing is done to store water when it is available in abundance," the president remarked.
In the meantime, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Indroyono Soesilo has warned against the devastating impacts of the drought, such as crop failure and forest fires.
"The Agriculture Minister reported that if El Nino is strong, it would damage crops in some 220,000 hectares of 8.1 million hectares of rice fields in the country," Indroyono said, after attending the meeting on El Nino.
Indroyono also quoted Agriculture Minister Amran Sulaiman as saying that, so far, five of 16 major dams in the country already have experienced water shortages.
The five dams were Keuliling in Aceh, Batutegi in Lampung, Saguling in West Java, Wonogiri in Central Java, and Bening in East Java.
However, reports by Public Works and Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono said there was no problem in water supplies from large dams.
"The ministry has asked governors, regents, and city mayors to use funds for special allocations of Rp2 trillion from the state budget to build water reservoirs, and 20 million water pumps have been made available," he said.
He noted that the state owned Board of Logistic is studying steps to be taken to cope with harvest failures by providing 2.5 million tons of rice stock, especially in October.
Meanwhile, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said it has set aside Rp75 billion to assist with drought disasters, in the short term.
Head of the data and information division of the agency, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, said the fund would be used to help regional offices of BNPB in coping with shortages in water supplies in drought struck areas.
"Currently, drought has hit 102 districts in 16 of the countrys 34 provinces," he said.
The 16 provinces include Banten, West Java, Central Java, Yogyakarta, East Java, Bengkulu, Papua, East Nusa Tenggara, West Nusa Tenggara, South Sumatra, South Sulawesi, Lampung, Riau, South Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and Bali.
"The hardest hit are Central Java, West Java, East Java, Lampung, South Sumatra and Bali," he added.
The public works and public housing ministry is also doing its parts in providing assistance due to the drought, by checking irrigation systems and imposing water rationing.
Water from dams will be prioritized for drinking, irrigation and industries, Director General of Water Resources of the Public Works and Public Housing Ministry Mudjiadi said recently.
Besides water pumps, the government has also distributed tank trucks and public hydrants to supply water to drought-hit areas.
The government has further warned the public of potential outbreaks of dengue fever during severe drought periods.
Drought could also become a factor in the rise of dengue fever cases, because people tend to store water at home. The mosquito that carries the dengue virus breeds in containers with clear, stagnant water.
However, a positive impact of El Nino is that it triggers the production of chlorophyll in oceans due to a drop in the temperature of the water.
This condition enriches food resources and increases the population of fish and salt production significantly.
"So adequate numbers of cold storage units must be provided to keep aquaculture products," Head of the BMKG Andi Eka Sakya said.