Sat, 08 Mar 2003

Residents divided over smeltery closure

Multa Fidrus, The Jakarta Post, Tangerang, Banten

Residents of Pajang subdistrict in Benda district of Tangerang municipality are divided over the presence of an aluminum and copper smeltery, PT Teguh Makmur Sejahtera, which has been operating in the area since 1990.

Some 175 residents grouped in the Benda Community Forum for Environmental Care (FPLMB) have accused the company of polluting the water and air in the area and have staged a series of rallies this month at the municipal hall building to demand the smeltery's closure.

Mayor Mochamad Thamrin has yielded to the protesters and ordered the smeltery to be shut down and relocated within six months.

The mayor's decision, however, has sparked protests from 200 other residents, whose livelihoods depend on the factory. Many of the residents either work at the smeltery or rely on the income they get from renting out their homes to workers or selling food to them.

Some 200 residents along with about 140 workers from the smeltery staged a rally on Wednesday at the municipal legislative council on Jl. Nyi Mas Melati, demanding that the council force the administration to cancel its decision to close the factory down.

They denied that the smeltery was polluting the area and challenged the councillors to go to the site to prove the allegations.

Separately, company director Neo Sugandhi said it would be no problem for him to relocate, but he denied that the smeltery was polluting the environment. He also said that the company had obtained all the necessary permits.

Meanwhile, the council chairman of Commission A for public affairs, Fachrudin, and Teddy Subrata, the chairman of Commission F for legal affairs, met with the protesters and workers and promised to investigate the case.

Both said that the decision to close the smeltery came under the authority of the municipal administration.

"It is unclear why there are pros and cons to this issue. There must be a problem with this case and we need to investigate what really happened," Fachrudin said, adding that the council would first summon representatives from both parties to further clarify the case.