Villagers in Jombang, East Java, have been taking the initiative for the past ten years in a bid to preserve their water reserves as well as the environment.
They started their planting campaign in 2000 following a difficult drought the year before.
“In 1998, the water in a number of springs in Wonosalam was depleted for a long time. At that time illegal logging was rampant. In 2000, we decided to revamp the damaged areas,” Panglungan village resident Wagisan, 46, said.
Wagisan and his fellow farmers formed a group to protect their water sources.
The group formed two months later when residents met and decided to work together to preserve the water in the area.
There are 44 springs in Wonosalam. Two are found in the hamlet of Mendiro, which is the main source of clean water for 87 families that require it for the daily needs like drinking, cooking, washing and bathing.
Wagisan said efforts to protect water sources were urgently needed given the fact that Wonosalam is located on a high plain in Jombang at the foot of a forest conservation area managed by the East Java Forestry Office. Wonosalam is surrounded by forests managed by state forestry firm Perum Perhutani.
Recently, Wagisan was preparing hardwood and rare fruit tree seedlings in the yard of his home, which also functions as the group’s base.
The various plants should be able to absorb up to 10,000 gallons of water when they each reach 50 centimeters in diameter, he said.
“The kuwang tree, for example, is able to retain a lot of water. It’s not surprising that the kuwang trees here sometimes emit water,” Wagisan said.
He said Wonosalam residents had been striving for quite a long time to preserve the springs by planting trees in damaged areas and near water sources, and by managing spring and river water usage.
According to group member Sudarsono, people are aware of the importance of protecting forests and have enjoyed the fruits of their labor ever since they started reforesting in 2000.
The water levels in a number of springs that were once depleted had now returned to normal and have even increased.
“The condition of the springs has improved and can now serve as a source of clean water for local residents,” Sudarsono said.
To channel water from the springs, residents installed a pipeline to reservoirs in their hamlets, from which residents channel water to their own homes.
According to Ecology and Wetland Conservation Institution (Ecoton) executive director Prigi Arisandi, whose group is currently counseling farming communities and residents in Wonosalam to preserve springs, the springs and rivers in Wonosalam make up part of the sources for the Brantas River.
The Brantas River, one of the main water sources for people in Surabaya, Sidoarjo, Gresik and surrounding areas, originates from the East Java mountains Wilis, Kelud, Kawi, Penanggungan, Arjuna, Semeru, Seloringgit and the Wonosalam mountain range.
Prigi said people need to share in the responsibility of preserving forests to ensure there are sufficient water reserves for everyone.