Locals collect clean water at Tasi Tolu beach in July, 2019. (Image/Antonio Goncalves)

DILI, 18 November 2019 (TATOLI) – A long dry season in Timor-Leste is sapping the water supplies of the capital, Dili, according to the Municipal Department of Water Supply and Sanitation (SAS).

The head of SAS, Francisco Xavier Pereira, said the city supplies of clean water were beginning to show major declines.

“Reductions were recorded at the Benamauk, Bemori, Maloa and one other clean water storage areas,” he said.

Aside from the lack of rain, Mr Pereira said the size of Dili’s 234,000 population continues to outstrip the available water supply.

Justiniano da Silva, country director for Water Aid in Timor-Leste, agrees

“I think this time is a long dry season… [and] It’s been bad for two or three years back, also,” he said.

But Mr Silva, whose NGO largely works in Timor’s rural areas, said government monitoring of water infrastructure could be improved.

“For the urban [population] like Dili, one [factor] is the dry season… But also, I think also a part of this is that government, as duty-bearers, has to have a proper plan as well,” he said.

The department has since released a schedule for consumers who need to get clean water supply each day, in a bid to slow consumption.

And he urged everyone living near the water not to cut back all the trees to preserve water supplies.

Clean water by 2030

Despite the looming shortage, the latest estimate (Tetum) is that 91.5 per cent of residents in urban areas like Dili are able to access clean water. This isn’t the case in rural parts of Timor-Leste; just 68.6 per cent can.

Francisco Xavier Pereira said from next year, works will continue on improving pipes in the rural areas of Metinaro and Ataúro Island. But in some cases, progress was going backwards.

“In Tasi-Tolu (Dili), the companies are expanding the roads there, [same as] in Ataúro and Metinaro. But we should also have changed these pipes, because [when] the company tore up the road, they also damaged the water distribution pipes,” he said.

He said further funding would need to be set aside to fix the problems at Tasi-Tolu Beach.

Timor-Leste’s national Water and Sanitation department is aiming to have 100 per cent of the population connected to clean drinking water by 2030.

Editor’s note: TATOLI has asked the municipal government for a breakdown of the water levels. We await their response.

Originally published in Tetum as: Bee Moos iha Kapitál Dili Komesa Menus

Reporter: Osória Marques; additional reporting by Robert Baird

Editors: Francisco Simões; Robert Baird

Translation: Nelia Borges

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