Fri, 11 Jun 2004

Ladia Galaska prone to landslides, quakes: Researcher

Moch. N Kurniawan, Jakarta

The proposed 470-kilometer Ladia Galaska highway from West to East Aceh will be prone to natural disasters due to the fact that its trajectory cuts through a number of fault lines in the province, an expert with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) says.

Bandung-based LIPI researcher Adrin Tohari, who was a member of a government-sanctioned team tasked with assessing the Ladia Galaska scheme in the field, said that some sections of the road would be highly vulnerable to landslides and earthquake damage.

He said that the Lhok Seumot-Beutong Ateuh section, Beutong Ateuh-Ceulala section and the Uring section would be at most risk from localized landslides, while the sections from Takengon to Isag, Ise-Ise to Blangkejeren and Pinding to Lokop would be prone to more generalized landslides.

"Therefore, any road schemes in these areas must be specially designed to help reduce the landslide problem," he told a seminar on the Ladia Galaska project held by the Community of Writers on the Environment (KPL).

The seminar was also attended by State Minister for the Environment Nabile Makarim, legislator Moh. Askin, and representatives from a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

According to Adrin, LIPI had submitted its recommendations to the government, but he refused to say whether the institute had come out in favor of or against the project.

However, a source told The Jakarta Post that LIPI had urged the government to halt the development of the controversial road project.

The controversy over the scheme has mainly centered on those sections that pass through the Leuser National Park.

Experts are worried that the road will lead to increased illegal logging.

Some experts also say that the development of the road there is not feasible due to frequent landslides.

However, the Ministry of Resettlement and Regional Infrastructure has pushed ahead with the construction of some of the sections of the road that do not cut through the national park, saying that the Acehnese administration had requested the building of the road to help link isolated areas in West Aceh and East Aceh.

The ministry has appointed a number of firms to build different sections of the route, including PT Wika Wira, PT Hutama Karya and PT Adhikarya.

But the Office of the State Minister for the Environment has continued to fight against the project.

State Minister for the Environment Nabiel Makarim said Thursday that the road plan lacked an environmental impact analysis (Amdal), and thus it should be stopped.

Besides, he said, the road development would pass through the Leuser National Park, and destroy the park's biodiversity and increase illegal logging there.

The road would also create more ease for the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in moving from one place to another, he said.

The development of the road, according to the minister, has violated various articles of Law No 23/1997 on environmental management, including article 18 (1), which states that every activity that causes a significant environmental impact must be preceded by an environmental impact analysis.

The construction of the road also breached Presidential Decree No. 32/1990 on conservation area management, and Law No. 41/1999 on forestry, he said.