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Jakarta Post

Threatened fishermen rally against reclamation project

  • Elly Burhaini Faizal
    Elly Burhaini Faizal

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, May 3, 2016   /  01:44 pm
Threatened fishermen rally against reclamation project Keep reclamation at bay-- Hundreds of fishermen occupy reclaimed Islet G in Jakarta Bay on April 17. The fishermen's livelihoods are under grave threat from the project. (Tempo/-)

The sun shone brightly on the hundreds of fishermen occupying reclaimed Islet G in Jakarta Bay on Sunday, April 17. Holding aloft dozens of banners, the fishermen climbed the piles of sand dredged elsewhere and dumped in the bay, and spread out their banners, emblazoned with messages such as “#JakartaTolakReklamasi” (Jakarta opposes reclamation) and “Stop Reklamasi Berselimut Korupsi” (Stop corruption-tainted reclamation).

The fishermen voiced their protest amid suffocating heat, accusing the city government of pursuing a policy that favors only the business interests of big developers in the city, while depriving local fishermen of their livelihoods. 

Islet G is one of 17 islets being or to be developed as part of a major reclamation project in Jakarta Bay. Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama has insisted on pressing ahead with the multitrillion-rupiah project, which comprises offshore reclamation and the development of 17 artificial islets. At least eight property companies have obtained reclamation permits from the Jakarta administration, according to the People’s Coalition for Fisheries Justice (KIARA). The advocacy group has further revealed that PT Muara Wisesa Samudera, a subsidiary of property developer PT Agung Podomoro Land (APL), which was granted a permit to develop Islet G, is one of the eight companies granted with reclamation permits. On Islet G, plans have been made to build houses, malls, offices and apartments. 

It is not an exaggeration for the fishermen of Jakarta Bay to say that the Jakarta administration has shown favor solely to the interests of private profit. The arrest of Jakarta city councillor Mohamad Sanusi on March 31 on suspicion of accepting bribes from Trinanda Prihantoro, an APL employee, indicates the company’s effort to smoothen the project by all means possible. At the same time, the alleged involvement of Sunny Tanuwijaya, an adviser to Ahok, in the bribery case throws ever-darker shadows on the governor’s seemingly blind insistence on pressing ahead with the project.

The central government has not yet approved the reclamation; the provincial administration issued reclamation permits despite the absence of the requisite coastal area and small island zoning bylaw. Sunny, a Northern Illinois University (NIU) graduate student who has been in the governor’s brains trust since the latter stood in the last gubernatorial elections as deputy to now President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, has repeatedly admitted to acting as a mediator between Ahok and business figures.

The alleged bribing of Sanusi was apparently aimed at influencing the deliberation of bills on the zoning of Jakarta’s coastal areas for the period 2015-2035 and on the North Jakarta Strategic Area Spatial Plan. These bills, once passed into city bylaws, were expected to ease the administration’s handling of the Jakarta Bay reclamation project.

The reclamation permits issued by the Jakarta administration contradict Article 34 of Law No.1/2014 in reference to Law No.27/2007 on the management of coastal areas and small islands, KIARA says. Article 34 stipulates that any reclamation must take into account the lives and livelihoods of local people affected.

“The firm opposition expressed by coastal communities in the Jakarta Bay to the reclamation project is rooted in their concerns that it will lead to the disappearance of their livelihoods and their continued existence in the area,” KIARA’s deputy head for information management, Parid Ridwanuddin, told in a interview.

Recent reports of sharp declines in sea catches in the bay since reclamation began are a strong indication that individual fishermen will have to bear the cost of the adverse social and economic impacts of the reclamation project.

Jakarta-chapter Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) executive director Puput TD Putra says the large-scale reclamation project will disturb mangrove vegetation and its ecosystem in Jakarta Bay and surrounding areas. Mangroves play, according to Puput, a vital role in holding back sea currents and slowing erosion, acting as a natural flood-defense system that does not entail sacrificing the local ecosystem.  Mangroves have additional benefit, too, such as serving as good breeding grounds for fish and other marine wildlife.

“The reclamation could further disrupt the ecosystem,” Puput told Reclamation, he said, would probably see mangrove vegetation destroyed, on the grounds that it was no longer needed because reclaimed islets would themselves serve to slow the currents in the bay. This would trigger great losses to coastal communities, which depend on fishing in mangrove forests.

The biota and coral reef lost in Jakarta Bay and surrounding areas are another environmental impact of reclamation that Walhi is deeply concerned about. Many small-scale fisher families hunt fish, green mussels or shellfish in the area as an alternative livelihood. Loss of biota and coral reef will as such plunge a whole subsection of Jakarta society into poverty.

Around 18,000 fishermen in the Jakarta Bay will at a stroke lose their fishing grounds if reclamation goes ahead. They will have to search for fishing grounds farther out to sea, entailing spending more money on fuel.

If these men and their families are not to see their livelihoods lost and their lives turned down, it is imperative that the reclamation megaproject, currently under a temporary moratorium, be called off once and for all.


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