Wed, 30 Apr 2003

Military arsenals could endanger neighborhoods

Sari P. Setiogi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Jakarta's Military commander (Pangdam Jaya) Maj. Gen. Joko Santoso said there are about five military arsenals in Jakarta.

Military arsenals can be dangerous if they are located near any residential areas or other facilities that can expose highly explosive weapons to vibrations or heat.

In 1984, a marine arsenal located in Cilandak, South Jakarta, exploded, killing several people and injuring 30 others. Eight hundred houses were also damaged in the explosion.

In 1996, fire swept through a marine arsenal in Cilincing, North Jakarta, but there were no fatalities.

In some cases, most residents of neighborhoods located near arsenals do not realize that they live close to a real threat.

"All the arsenals were initially built away from residential areas, but then people came and built houses around them, so now they are too close to people's houses," Joko told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

"It would be better if all the arsenals in the city were relocated, but of course, we have to consider the capacities of the country and the military," he said.

Joko was commenting on the Army and city administration's current talks to relocate the Palad arsenal on Jl. Stasiun Cakung, Pulo Gebang, which is on the boundary between East Jakarta and Bekasi.

Joko said the Palad arsenal capacity was about 40 times larger than the Cilandak marine corps facility that exploded in 1984.

Kosasih Wirahadikusumah, the head of the City Environmental Management Agency (BPLHD), told the Post that it would be better if the arsenal was relocated because it was too close to a residential area.

"This kind of arsenal, if it is too close to a residential area, can endanger civilian lives since it could explode at any time," said Kosasih.

Meanwhile, plans are in the works to build a new bus terminal to replace the existing one in Pulo Gadung about 50 meters from the arsenal. The Pulo Gadung terminal is regarded as being too cramped and causing too much traffic congestion.

Joko said 200 meters was a safe distance to have between an arsenal and a residential area.

"So the options are either to build a new bus terminal no closer than 200 meters from the arsenal or to just relocate the arsenal," he said.

An officer at the arsenal's security post told the Post that the facility had been there for about 35 years.

He refused to make any comments on the relocation, but agreed that it would be dangerous if a bus terminal was built close to the arsenal.

"The vibrations caused by the buses at the terminal could trigger explosions in the arsenal," he said.

In the meantime, Hasbullah, the head of the Pulo Gebang subdistrict, said that he had not heard of any official statements made on the arsenal's relocation.

"Any questions regarding the arsenal should be directed to the Army. I know nothing about it," he said.

He said that the 22-hectare arsenal was behind the back of the subdistrict office, and the eastern part of it stretched into Bekasi.

He said that construction on the new bus terminal was slated to begin soon. He could not give an exact date, but told the Post that the project would start sometime this year.

"The project has been included in the 2003 budget," he said, adding that it may be finished in the next two to three years.

Meanwhile, a civil security guard (hansip) in front of the office said that the arsenal might be relocated to Bekasi soon after the elections next year and the vacant lot would be turned into a green area.

He also confirmed the plan for a new bus terminal. "The roads will be widened by eight meters on either side," he said.

He said the new terminal would be built on an 11-hectare site, which at the moment, has a large, fish pond on it.

He also said that they had listed the houses to be demolished before construction begins.

A woman living across the street from the arsenal said that she had not heard of any complaints concerning the environment due to the close proximity of the facility.

"So far, everything is just fine. But I've heard that if the bus terminal is moved here, the vibrations caused by the buses could set off an explosion in the arsenal, and I'm worried about that," she said.