Sat, 26 Apr 2003

City administration will proceed with reclamation

Bambang Nurbianto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The city administration seems likely to proceed with a controversial reclamation project along the northern coast after an administration-organized panel discussion gave a green light to the project on Friday, only proposing a few changes to the environmental impact analysis (Amdal).

The one-day discussion stressed the need for the city administration to respond to various concerns about the possible impact of the reclamation of 2,700 hectares along the northern coast.

Its recommendations included specific studies to prevent environmental damage and to deal with the possible social and economic impacts on local residents, as well as other measures the city administration should take in pursuing the project.

The results of the seminar came as no surprise because most of the discussion participants support the reclamation project.

The discussion, which the city administration billed as a public debate, excluded outspoken critics who believe the project will cause serious environmental damage.

Two environmental organizations -- the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) and the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL) -- were excluded from the event, which Governor Sutiyoso had promised would involve those from both sides of the debate on the project.

Although organizers claimed representatives of the organizations were invited to the meeting, officials of the two organizations denied having received an invitation.

"There was no invitation to the seminar on reclamation this week," the chairman of Walhi's Jakarta chapter, Slamet Daroyni, told The Jakarta Post on Friday. A similar statement came from an ICEL executive.

Most of the participants of the panel discussion, organized by the Research Center for Applied Geography at the University of Indonesia for the city administration, were representatives of potential investors in the project and officials from the city administration and other government agencies.

Despite the panel discussion's apparent green light, Karliansyah, an official from the Office of the State Minister for the Environment, said the reclamation project was not feasible.

"The environmental minister's decree rejecting the reclamation project is final as it was made based on the Amdal proposed for the project," he said.

The chairman of the Environmental Task Force (ETF), Ahmad "Puput" Syafruddin, slammed the organizers of the event for excluding outspoken project critics, saying that it demonstrated the city administration's decision not to involve those opposed to the project in a public debate.

"The event was designed to justify the city administration's desire to go ahead with the project, as outspoken figures were excluded from the event," said Puput, who is also a former chairman of the Walhi Jakarta chapter.

State Minister for the Environment Nabiel Makarim's Decree No. 14/2003 rejecting the project was based on the recommendations of the central commission studying the environmental impact analysis, which was a reworking of an Amdal proposed by the Waterfront City Management Body.

The central commission found that the reclamation project was not environmentally or socially feasible.

According to the commission, the reclamation project would cause sea levels to rise by 12 centimeters, which could worsen flooding in northern areas of the city.

It also said the project could spark social conflict because thousands of fishermen in the northern coastal areas, including Kamal Muara, Muara Angke, Muara Baru and Kampung Luar Batang, would lose their livelihoods.

Third, it would damage the sea's ecosystem because some 330 million cubic meters of sand would be needed for the reclamation project. And fourth it would worsen pollution around the Thousand Islands due to activities during reclamation work and during the utilization of the reclaimed land.