Coal-fired plant project
faces local opposition

Local communities in Batang, Central Java, have urged the government to drop its plan to construct a US$4 billion coal-fired power plant, saying that its environmental impact could destroy the livelihoods of more than 100,000 people in the area.

Residents near the site of the planned project said the construction of the power plant would destroy rice farming and the thriving fishery industry.

“We harvest rice three times a year to help provide staple food to the country and we catch tons of fish to feed the nation. We don’t want our land to die off in the hands of investors who will destroy not only our livelihoods but also this country,” said a local fisherman identifying himself as Boy, in a press conference held by Greenpeace Indonesia on Tuesday.

Boy said he was disappointed with the government as local officials appeared to ignore their complaints and did nothing when thugs started intimidating locals.

“They’ve recently tried to intimidate us and sometimes they use violence if we refuse to sell our land. But we are not going to give up because this is all we have,” he said, adding that 50 local landowners had refused to sell 55 hectares of land for the proposed power plant.

The Japanese-backed project is expected to take up between 200 and 350 hectares of land in the area.

Karomat, another local resident from Ujung Negoro village, said if the project continued he would leave the area and lose his monthly income of Rp 3 million (US$246).

Greenpeace Indonesia said the planned 2,000 megawatt (MW) plant, dubbed the biggest coal-fired power plant project in Southeast Asia, would annually emit 226 kilograms of mercury into the neighboring Ujung Negoro-Roban regional marine protected area, damaging local fishing.

The project would also release about 10.8 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, equal to Myanmar’s entire emissions throughout 2009.

Greenpeace Indonesia blasted President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for giving the go-ahead to the project.

“It shows the President isn’t committed to reducing greenhouse emissions by 26 percent by 2020 and developing 25 percent of renewable energy by 2025. The government hasn’t learned how projects can impact negatively on people,” Greenpeace Indonesia climate and energy campaigner Arif Fiyanto said.

Greenpeace Indonesia previously found the newly-constructed coal-fired steam power plant (PLTU) in Cirebon, West Java, had destroyed shrimp ponds, resulting in the loss of more than 3,000 jobs.

A PLTU project in Cilacap, Central Java has seen 80 percent of local residents suffer acute respiratory ailments to black lung disease, the latter commonly found in mine workers.

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