Indonesia: Environmental group challenges reclamation project in South Sulawesi

Andi Hajramurni The Jakarta Post 29 Jul 16;

Local residents and activists will continue to challenge land reclamation around Losari Beach, South Sulawesi, after a court rejected a lawsuit against the issuance of a permit for the project.

“The panel of judges did not have an environmental perspective,” Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) executive director Nur Hidayati said after a hearing on Thursday.

She emphasized that Walhi did not talk about the direct impacts from the reclamation project, but the long-term impacts in the future.

The Makassar State Administrative Court (PTUN) on Thursday turned down a lawsuit filed by Walhi against the South Sulawesi governor for the issuance of the permit to reclaim areas on the province’s famous waterfront, to be developed into residential and commercial areas.

Presiding judge Tedi Romyadi said the permit granted to PT Yasmin Bumi Asri would not cause pollution or damage the environment around the site, as claimed by Walhi. The lawsuit, therefore, was considered formally flawed.

“[The panel of judges] declares the lawsuit was not accepted and the plaintiff has to pay court expenses of Rp 2,963,500 [US$225.23],” said Tedi, who is also head of the Makassar State Administrative Court.

One member of the judging panel, Joko Setiono, had a dissenting opinion.

In its lawsuit, Walhi said the permit issued by the governor on Nov. 1, 2013 for the reclamation project would trigger pollution and environmental damage in the reclaimed area, including to the ecosystem, coral

“Before the reclamation, the environment in the area, including the coral reefs, was already severely damaged.”

The reclamation permit was initially granted to PT Yasmin Bumi Asri but last year part of the area, spanning around 100 hectares, was handed over to Ciputra Surya Tbk. for the development of a business center, hotel and luxury residential complex.

The remaining 57 ha were handed over to the South Sulawesi administration for the development of the Center Point of Indonesia (CPI), comprising a state guesthouse, convention building and open
green area.

Citing an explanation from an expert witness during trial, Tedi said environmental damage had been done before the reclamation occurred.

“Before the reclamation, the environment in the area, including the coral reefs, was already severely damaged,” said Tedi, adding that according to the expert witness, there was no mangrove forest at that time but only some mangrove trees.

He added that of the 157 ha area, some 20 ha had been reclaimed, saying the reclamation had not polluted the area.

Walhi promptly rejected the ruling and said it would appeal to the South Sulawesi State Administrative High Court.

The group also expressed its objection to the panel of judges, who left the courtroom immediately after reading out the verdict, without providing the plaintiff or its lawyer a chance to respond.

Nur Hidayati said the lawsuit was filed because the environment had to be preserved and grassroots communities, especially in coastal areas, had to be given space.

Hundreds of people from coastal areas around the reclaimed location who attended the trial similarly rejected the court’s ruling. They expressed support for Walhi to continue with the lawsuit.

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