Your letters: Coal mining: Boon or bane?
Paper Edition | Page: 8
I am a 10th-grader living in Jakarta. Articles in The Jakarta Post on the coal industry have interested me. Subsequently, I decided to examine the realities on the ground concerning environmental issues facing this industry and conducted a small “on-site” survey with people from different levels of the coal mining industry.
According to World Coal Association, foreign exchange earnings of US$20 billion were bought into the country through the export of about 309 million tons of coal in 2011. There are more than 5,000 mining permits granted to over 400 companies in Indonesia. Needless to say, it is one of the top revenue generators for the economy.
However, it has created a black spot on the face of this beautiful country because coal mining has become a major environmental issue in Indonesia as the weak implementation of the law has never resolved environmental or reclamation issues. The major degradation of the environment is being caused by the preparation of coal mines. “For the preparation of coal mines, the lust green landscape of trees and vegetation is cleared by cutting or burning,” said one of the villagers living near a coal mine in Batuah village in Balikpapan, West Kalimantan.
Then surfaces of land are left barren once coal has been exhausted, despite a government decree that companies must reclaim the land once their mining activities are completed. This regulation is not adhered to, causing massive floods and landslides in nearby villages.
During transportation, a lot of spillage takes place that contaminates sea water as well as the land. This fact was also confirmed by Murki Friatna, an executive with the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi).
Coal, as such, is not a clean source of energy and its combustion emits approximately 0.37 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kwh of energy produced. Indonesia, like many other developing economies; heavily depends on coal for its energy needs. The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that the share of electricity generated from coal will increase from its current levels of 45 percent to nearly 63 percent in 2030.
This quantum leap will certainly lead to further degradation of the environment. There is a need to reduce such a heavy dependency on coal and Indonesia needs to think about alternative and cleaner sources of energy.
Coal mining does not only cause environmental problems, but it also has a large impact on the health of society. According to the survey conducted, most of the people living nearby the coal mines have breathing problems.
“All the people living on the mountains and hills were forced to move their houses” said another villager living near the coal mine. Ignorance of the medical facilities provided by the coal mining company is extremely high.
“The community has been greatly affected due to infertile soil, lower crop yields, the destruction of plantations and frequent landslides” said the villager. Although the government of Indonesia has made new regulations, it is not binding on paper, coal mining companies continue to operate under contracts that are decades old. During the Asia Coal Trans Conference held at Nusa Dua on June 4, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Jero Wacik also remarked, “The coal mining businessmen should care for the environment and the people living around the mining sites.”
The government should take responsibility for its lackluster attitude, and should be determined to solve the problems of environmental degradation by enforcing its laws in the mining sector.