Thu, 13 Mar 2003

Analysts slam Sutiyoso's insistence on reclamation

Damar Harsanto and Bambang Nurbianto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Environmental analysts blasted on Wednesday Governor Sutiyoso's insistence to go ahead with a reclamation project in the northern coastal area of Jakarta, saying that he showed no sensitivity to the ecological problems that would ensue.

Rully Besari Budiyanti of Trisakti University said many leaders in the city and elsewhere in the country only focused on economic development while ignoring the environmental impact.

"Before the development project is implemented, decisionmakers should calculate the impact it will have on the environment, as the ecological damage would mean serious consequences for residents. Unfortunately, that aspect is often ignored," Rully told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

She said the most serious impact resulting from the reclamation project would be the disappearance of various species from along the coastal area, which is an ecological transition point between the land and the sea.

The loss of plankton, for example, would cause all kinds of marine life to seek food elsewhere and would indirectly affect fishermen, who depend on fish to make a living.

Another environmental analyst, Marco Kusumawijaya, agreed with Rully, stressing that the city administration should not ignore the environmental impact analysis, conducted by the State Ministry of the Environment.

"People should not get confused over the differences between the ministry and the city administration as they have no adequate information about the issue," Marco told the Post on Wednesday.

He said perhaps there was technology that could be applied to minimize the risks faced by residents if the project was implemented, but the lack of discipline amid city leaders in managing that technology would be another problem.

"Based on past experience, the city has been managed with a lack of discipline, full of deception, therefore people are worried that this project will pose high risks to them," he said, adding that many Jakartans were still haunted by the annual floods.

The environmental and social problems contained in the environmental analysis include an increase in the sea level, thousands of fishermen being out of work, damage being done to the ocean's ecosystem and worsening pollution around the Kepulauan Seribu (Thousand Islands) regency.

Rully and Marco were commenting on Sutiyoso's statements on Wednesday that he would go ahead with reclaiming over 5,000 hectares even though the results of an environmental impact analysis by the State Ministry of the Environment stressed that the project was not feasible.

"The reclamation plan is simply inevitable amid the rapid growth in the city's population. The capital is overcrowded, not to mention that there is a mass influx of people, between 200,000 and 250,000, each year," Sutiyoso said in a meeting with some members of the Supreme Advisory Council (DPA).

Sutiyoso argued that his administration could not develop areas that border with other mayoralties or regencies, such as Bogor, Depok or Tangerang, owing to their different interests and that they are under the administration of other provinces.

"In addition, my administration will go ahead with this plan as we have completed all the requirements, including the environmental impact analysis," said Sutiyoso.

It was the second statement the governor made this week about going ahead with the reclamation project. The first statement he made came after he installed several senior city officials on Monday.