Mon, 14 Feb 2000

West Java denies responsibility for pollution

BANDUNG (JP): West Java Governor R. Nuriana insisted his administration was not responsible for the mercury that is said to have contaminated Cisadane River, whose water finds its way into homes across Jakarta.

Speaking to reporters here on Saturday, Nuriana said a shortage of employees prevented his office from stopping the illegal gold mining on Cipongkor Mountain in Bogor. These miners have been accused of playing a significant role in the contamination of Cisadane River.

"The illegal miners are indeed my residents but it's difficult to take any legal measures against them because we don't have enough officials.

"It would be easier to take legal action if the pollution was committed by, (for example), state-owned mining firm PT Aneka Tambang," Nuriana said.

He was referring to the company which possesses a 4,058- hectare gold mining concession in Cipongkor.

There are as many as several hundred people working as illegal gold miners on Cipongkor Mountain. Some come from as far away as villages in Lampung, Sumatra.

Most of the illegal miners use mercury to process the gold ore in the nearby Cisadane River.

Several dailies reported on Wednesday that water samples from the river, which flows from Bogor through Tangerang, west of Jakarta, showed mercury levels at 3.33 parts per billion (ppb). The maximum level considered still safe is less than one ppb.

Nuriana said his administration had banned illegal mining on Cipongkor, which has also been the site of a number of deaths due to landslides at the illegal mines.

"It has become a national problem. The central government should step up its law enforcement activities against the illegal miners," he said.

Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso demanded on Thursday the West Java administration be responsible for the pollution in Cisadane River, which is one of Jakarta's water sources.

"The West Java administration should prevent its residents from damaging the environment because it will effect Jakarta residents," he told reporters at City Hall.

Sutiyoso also asked PT Pam Lyonaisse Jaya (Palyja) to take the necessary precautions. Palyja provides tap water to residents in the western part of Jakarta and uses Cisadane River as its water source.

City spokesman Muhayat said the case served as a warning sign for all residents, although the exact level of pollution in the river has yet to be determined.

"Palyja will test the water samples at its French headquarters to determine the level of the water pollution. It will need three days to get the results," he said, adding that the city administration would await the test result before taking any further action.

"We will coordinate with the West Java administration as soon as we have the test results," he said. (05/25)