For the Worry of Water: Water, Women and Tourism in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia

1Dr Stroma Cole has conducted British Academy sponsored research examining a gendered analysis of tourism and water scarcity in Labuan Bajo, the gateway town to Komodo National Park, Flores, Indonesia. Tourism is the main (only) form of development being promoted in this once small village which in the past 10 years has grown to become a global town. Based on ethnographic research, over 100 people were consulted on the problems and potential solutions. The research has uncovered how, as in so many destinations, women are associated with all things domestic, and hence domestic water provision and management, and are therefore bearing the brunt of the burdens due to a system that is unsustainable and priced unfairly.

2Tourism has improved water access for some – a quick call on your mobile and water is delivered by the tanker load. Others, who cannot afford the tanker supply or who have no space to store it, have to join long queues, sometimes through the night, to fill jerry cans. The more water you order, the cheaper it is – hotels that use the most have the most consistent supplies.

The immediate needs are for regulation of the quality and price of the tanker water that supplies many people in the town. Longer term needs, which require action as soon as possible, are for water catchment protection and water conservation education. Essential to the success of water management in Labuan Bajo is the total overhaul of the state run water supply company (PDAM), and for women to be trained for leadership and monitoring to ensure solutions are enacted and women’s voices on the provision and supply of water are heard.

Stroma recently released her Initial Policy Paper arising out of her research in Flores, Indonesia: ‘For the Worry of Water: Water, Women and Tourism in Labuan Bajo’, which can be read in full by clicking here.