Indonesia: Fishermen win allies in fight against land reclamation projects

Dewanti A. Wardhani, The Jakarta Post 7 Mar 16;

Increasing numbers of public figures and communities are adding their voices to calls to halt land reclamation in Jakarta, citing both environmental and humanitarian reasons.

Previously, the Indonesian Traditional Fishermen’s Association (KNTI), aided by the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta), had fought a lonely fight, filing numerous petitions to Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama to put a stop to the ongoing land reclamation off the city’s north coast.

Their fight, however, did not go unnoticed, and more and more public figures and communities have come out in support of the movement against land reclamation.

Documentary filmmaker and journalist Dandhy Laksono has publicly voiced his opposition to land reclamation, not only in Jakarta but also in Makassar and Bali. Dandhy and colleague Ucok Parta released last year a documentary on the Benoa Bay reclamation in Bali, which was opposed by local activists and communities; members of the 1998 activist movement also recently stated their opposition to the reclamation.

Dandhy’s documentary on the controversial Benoa Bay project, titled Kala Benoa, tells a thought-provoking story critical of the reclamation. Dandhy recently told The Jakarta Post that he was currently filming a similar documentary on reclamation in Jakarta.

“The angle, perspective and execution will be similar to Kala Benoa,” he said.

Singer and activist Melanie Subono, who has 679,000 Twitter followers, has also been vocal in opposing land reclamation in Jakarta through her social media accounts. Melanie told the Post that her opposition was based on simple reasons, namely that reclamation was environmentally destructive and harmful to local people.

Not only did reclamation degrade the environment, she said, but neither the Jakarta administration or the central government had addressed the impact on local fisherfolk. The project, she added, benefited only a small number of people of a certain class.

Communities, including women’s organization Solidaritas Perempuan (Women’s Solidarity), have joined hands with the KNTI, forming a coalition against land reclamation. Solidaritas Perempuan program officer Arieska Kurniawaty said that the organization advocated the rights of women living in Muara Angke and Kamal Muara in North Jakarta, areas greatly affected by land reclamation projects.

Arieska argued that the effects of land reclamation on these women, most of whom also manage their households, were graver than those on men.

“Many of the women we’ve met used to shell mussels. Since the land reclamation project began, there have been fewer mussels and many women have switched occupation to laundry work, which is far less lucrative,” Arieska said.

Meanwhile, a group of residents claiming to be “the real traditional fishermen” of Muara Angke have voiced support for the project, which they insist is in no way environmentally or socially debilitating.

Local leader Tubagus Mukri, who leads the movement in support of land reclamation, admitted that a number of members of the group had received financial and other forms of support from Islet G — AKA Pluit City — developer PT Muara Wisesa Samudera, a subsidiary of Agung Podomoro Land. Mukri said that he was a fisherman who also ran an umroh (minor haj) travel agent.

Mukri was present during the recent hearing of a petition filed by the KNTI, and which heard expert testimony from Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) oceanographer Alan Koropitan and the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry’s director of marine spatial planning, Subandono Diposaptono.

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