Indonesia: After decades of exploitation, Java on brink of ecological crisis

The Jakarta Post 30 Dec 15;

A group of concerned scientists, researchers, environmentalists and agrarian activists launched a petition on Tuesday calling on the government to take aggressive action to stop what they deemed the ongoing ecological destruction in Java.

The group urged President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to instruct the state-owned enterprises and environment and forestry ministries to review the environmental management feasibility of all cement factories, gold and sand mining, as well as all power plant companies operating in Java. The group blamed the rapid deterioration of the environment in Java on the industrial activities.

The group also called on the Agrarian and Spatial Planning Ministry to review a number of regional spatial plans (RTRW) that it said accommodated infrastructure projects without considering the principles of environmental justice.

One of 248 signatories of the petition, Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) senior researcher Soeryo Adiwibowo, said that industrial activities had led to steep forest cover decline in Java, from 15 percent in the early 1990s to 3 percent currently.

Soeryo said the forest loss had not only led to disasters such as flooding, prolonged drought and forest fires but also land conflicts, which mostly involved private firms and indigenous people.

“The biggest contributors to our ecological crisis are economic and political decisions that ignore environmental consequences,” Soeryo said.

Eko Cahyono, executive director of the Bogor-based Sajogyo Institute agrarian study center, said that the cement industry could bring about a catastrophic ecological crisis, especially in places such as Mount Kendeng Utara in Central Java, where the operations of a cement company could impact its surrounding regencies — Rembang, Pati and Grobogan.

A lower court in Pati ordered the closure of a local cement factory in November, effectively halting the limestone mining operations of PT Sahabat Mulia Sakti.

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