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Fishermen, mussel farmers hit hard by reclamation projects

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

Tangerang | Wed, November 25, 2015 | 03:39 pm

A bitter smile crept across the face of mussel farmer Muhammad Ali, 41, as he described his struggle to make ends meet amid an ongoing coastal reclamation project in Dadap, Tangerang regency, Banten.

'€œLike all other fishermen and mussel farmers around here, my income has decreased significantly because of the damage to the ecosystem done by the reclamation,'€ Muhammad said.

'€œBut there'€™s no other way for me to earn money; mussel cultivation is my only skill.'€

A reclamation project is currently ongoing in the Dadap coastal area. The project, named PIK 2, is understood to be part of the Tangerang regency administration'€™s plan to build a new town.

In 2013, Tangerang regent Ahmed Zaki Iskandar revealed that the administration had teamed up with PT Tangerang International City (TIC), a developer belonging to conglomerate Salim Group, to reclaim seven islands '€” or 9,000 hectares of sea '€” off the north coast of Tangerang. The islands would stretch 52 kilometers along the coast from Kronjo to Dadap.

Under the plan, the administration would establish facilities on the islands including housing and an alternative seaport to lessen the burden on Tanjung Priok seaport in North Jakarta.

Meanwhile in Kamal Muara in Penjaringan, a border area between Jakarta and Tangerang, a project to reclaim land off the coast of North Jakarta is also underway.

The Kamal Muara project has similarly sparked fury among fishermen and mussel farmers, who say they have been hit financially by the resultant ecosystem damage.

Zaki claimed, however, that the marine ecosystem in the area had long been contaminated by waste and garbage from nearby rivers. '€œEven before the reclamation, the regency'€™s coastal areas were already contaminated,'€ he said.

On Monday, Muhammad and around 500 other fishermen and mussel farmers staged a rally aboard their boats, demanding the two projects'€™ reclamation permits be revoked.

After the rally, Muhammad pinpointed the cause of mussel farmers'€™ losses as mud, generated by the projects, that disrupted the mussel ecosystem, lengthening cultivation periods.

'€œI used to harvest the mussels after four months, now it'€™s seven months,'€ Muhammad said, adding that his mussels were also becoming smaller.

Before the reclamation began, he added, he had earned between Rp 500,000 (US$36.5) and Rp 700,000 daily, the figure dropping to between Rp 300,000 and Rp 400,000 in recent times.

Azis Suhendi, leader of the Traditional Fishermen'€™s Union (SNT), echoed Muhammad'€™s points, adding that the reclamation had also caused losses to fishermen, whose equipment, such as traditional fish traps and platforms, had been destroyed or damaged by developers piling up sand on the fishing platforms and hitting the fish traps with their boats.

No compensation for the damage had been offered by developers or the administration, he went on.

As such, Azis said, fishermen and mussel farmers were demanding that the Tangerang regency and Jakarta administrations revoke the projects'€™ reclamation permits to prevent any further blows to the livelihoods of those who depend on the area'€™s marine ecosystem.

In response to the demands, Zaki said that his administration no longer had the authority to issue
reclamation permits, let alone revoke them, since the issuance of Law no. 23/2014 on regional administration. According to Zaki, reclamation permits '€” and revocations '€” are now handled by the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry. Officials from the ministry could not be reached for a comment as of Tuesday evening. (agn)

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