Tue, 25 Feb 2003

Minister and NGOs to sue firms over floods, landslides on Java

Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

State Minister for the Environment Nabiel Makarim said on Monday that his ministry, a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and victims of landslides and floods in Java are set to sue parties responsible for the recent natural calamities.

"We have talked with NGOs in Malang, Pekalongan, Garut, Karanganyar, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) and the Legal Aid Institute Foundation (LBHI) about the plan to file a lawsuit against the responsible authorities," he said at a hearing with the House of Representatives Commission VIII overseeing, among other things, the environment.

Nabiel said the lawsuit would demand compensation for victims, rehabilitation of the ravaged environment, and demand that state administrative policies be revoked.

He did not mention any names, but many believe that state forestry company Perhutani should be held responsible for floods and landslides on Java as it has failed to manage its forests responsibly.

Perhutani is the only company that holds forest concessions on Java.

A number of floods and landslides occurred in Java recently, in Pacet, East Java, and Garut and Cirebon in West Java, which claimed dozens of lives and caused massive material losses.

Governors of West Java and East Java have issued a regulation to stop logging activity on Java, while governors of Central Java and Bali have given a verbal agreement to impose a moratorium on logging.

Governors of Banten, Jakarta and Yogyakarta are expected to impose a logging moratorium immediately.

Nabiel expected that the lawsuit, whether it is filed in the civil court or in the state administrative court, would be filed in April.

Besides the lawsuit preparation, Nabiel also urged his counterpart Minister of Forestry M. Prakosa to ban Perhutani from conducting logging activities.

"Perhutani must limit its activities to planting, not logging anymore," he said.

Meanwhile, Nabiel also rejected the plan to build a road namely Ladia Galaska which would enter the Leuser National Park in Aceh, saying the road would only pave the way for rampant illegal logging.

"We have a severe lack of monitoring of our forests, just like Brazil. Once we build the road into Leuser National Park, the forest will be finished like those in Brazil," he said.

He also warned that if the plan continued, people living around the Leuser National Park would suffer from more floods, landslides, and drought.

A number of non-governmental organizations have also demanded that the government stop its plan to build a road passing through the park.