Tue, 26 Aug 2003

Hundreds protest PLN lines

Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post, Bandung

More than 700 families staged a rally again on Monday in Bandung, West Java, to demand that they be compensated or relocated from their current residential areas beneath dangerous high-voltage transmission lines.

The protesters were from six subdistricts of Rancaekek, Solokan Jeruk, Ciparay, Arjasari, Cicalengka and Banjaran. They marched to the West Java legislative council to convey their grievances.

They expressed worry about their safety while living so near the high-voltage transmission lines (SUTET) operated by state- owned electricity company PT PLN.

"We have come many times to the Bandung legislative council, the Jakarta office of PLN and the operator of the Java-Bali-Nusa Tenggara SUTET project in Semarang (Central Java). But we have not gotten any answers," said Jajang Rusmawan, 49, a protester from Padamukti village in Solokan Jeruk.

He said the 500-kilovolt transmission lines above their residential areas caused real anxiety and health problems.

Jajang said the power lines had claimed the life of his neighbor, identified as Jamban, 50, who was electrocuted during a rainstorm.

Jajang's wife and some other villagers Padamukti often get headaches and there has been a noticeable lack of circulation in their legs, which they blame on the latent electricity of the high-powered lines.

"We want PLN officials and councillors or government officials to visit our houses. We want them to try to imagine how we can live calmly if all metal objects, including regular house keys, can produce electricity when test devices are put on them," Jajang said.

Ujang Syaripudin, who leads the Bandung Association of SUTET Victims (IKKS), said the protesters demanded that PLN relocate them or pay them compensations to buy plots of land to build new houses in safer areas.

They said the compensation should be between Rp 400,000 (US$47) and Rp 1.2 million per square meter.

Ujang said the residents had never received any compensation since the transmission lines were installed in 1999 and began operating two years later.

At the time, they were afraid of demanding compensation as the project managers used a "militaristic approach" against the locals, he added.

Ujang urged PT PLN to comply with Law No. 20/2002 on electricity, under which the company must compensate for land, buildings and farms affected by the installment of transmission lines.

However, the Ministry of Mines and Energy still enforces Ministerial Decree No. 01.P/047/MPE/1992 on SUTET, which stipulates that the government does not clear land below high- voltage transmission lines or compensate those that live near them.

Irfan Anshori, chairman of the council's Commission E, refused to meet with the protesters but said the problem with SUTET should be solved by PT PLN.

"Since January 2003, we have received more than 20 formal complaints over SUTET. If it continues, it could harm general security and stability," he added.