Living Amid Limitations on Selat Desa Island

Despite being part of the administrative area of Batam City, many basic facilities are not available on Selat Desa Island of Riau Islands. For years, around 45 families, mostly Muslim converts, have lived without electricity, and health facility. In addition, there’s only one prayer room available for the Muslim families.

Aerial photo shows the overhead power line on Selat Desa Island. (ACTNews / Eko Ramdani)

ACTNews, BATAM – The Selat Desa Island is situated east of Batam Island. It takes about 15-20 minutes to reach the island by motorboat from the Telaga Punggur Ferry Terminal. This island is part of the administrative area of, Ngenang Village, Nongsa District, Batam City.

In the third week of March, ACTNews had the opportunity to visit Selat Desa Island accompanied by Ari Anggara, a preacher who has been serving on the island. Ari says, Selat Desa Island still lacks facilities even though it is located close to Batam City.

"The most visible difference is in its electricity. At night, Batam and Tanjung Uban can be seen brightly from a distance with its glimmering light while in Selat Desa Island they use diesel-fueled electric generators. Electricity is only available from 6 to 10 p.m. because the fuel is expensive, ”said Ari on the boat that took ACTNews team to the Island, Thursday (3/18/2021).

For years, 45 families on Selat Desa Island have been living without electricity despite overhead power lines that stretched across the Island. The diesel-fueled becomes the locals’ only source of electricity.

For the electric generator to run, it takes quite a lot of fuel that is too expensive for the locals to buy, not to mention that they have to go to Batam by boat to buy it. "It costs IDR 50,000 to 80,000 to get to Punggur to buy gasoline. It’s too expensive for the locals who are mostly poor,” added Ari.

Selat Desa residents use canoes to take their children to school on Ngenang Island. (ACTNews / Eko Ramdani)

Most of the Selat Desa Islanders are fishermen. The majority of them are members of the Orang Laut ethnic group who depend on the sea for their living. Armed with traditional equipment, they sail to the sea every morning to fish.

When their parents are working in the sea, the children in Selat Desa go to school by small canoes. The closest school to Selat Desa Island is located on Ngenang Island, about 10-15 minutes away by boat. After arriving at the Ngenang Island pier, the children must continue their journey on foot to the school for one kilometer.

"There are no schools on Selat Desa Island. There are only a prayer room and semi-permanent houses. To reach schools and health facilities, we have to cross the straits to the neighboring islands,” said the preacher from Tanjung Pinang. []