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Jakarta Post

Fish breeding firm under fire for polluting Lake Toba

Fish breeding firm under fire for polluting Lake Toba Amazing view: Lake Toba is so huge that it actually looks like an ocean. (ANN/The Star/Allison Lai)
Apriadi Gunawan
Medan   ●   Wed, February 6, 2019 2019-02-06 08:41 830 ab327006fac3d4a4e8af45a51b1a5e8e 2 National environment,water-pollution,Lake-Toba Free

The North Sumatra provincial administration has reprimanded fish breeder PT Aquafarm Nusantara for polluting Lake Toba in Toba Samosir regency.

The company operates thousands of floating net cages in Lake Toba to cultivate tilapia but has committed multiple violations in its operations, according North Sumatra Environment Agency head Binsar Situmorang.

They include exceeding the limit of cultivating 26.4 million tons of fish a year and poor waste management, he said.

“We have followed up on the violations by giving the company an administrative sanction,” Binsar told journalists in Medan, North Sumatra, on Monday.

He said the decision was based on Law No 32/2009 on the protection and management of the environment.

Article 76 of the law outlines a four-tired disciplinary procedure for companies who are caught  violating environmental regulations. First, they will receive a written warning, then a government inspection, followed by a suspension of their environmental permits. If they still fail to comply,  their permits will be revoked entirely.

Binsar said it was possible that Aquafarm Nusantara’s permits would be revoked if it ignored the administration’s reprimands and continued to pollute the lake.

“The provincial administration is serious about this sanction. Whoever pollutes Lake Toba will face firm actions,” he said.

Pollution in Lake Toba has become a controversial issue in the province. Hundreds of protesters staged a rally in front of the Toba Samosir regent’s office and the regency council building. They demanded closure of the company for polluting the lake.

According to Arimo Manurung, who is part of the protesters’ advocacy team, Aquafarm Nusantara has been polluting the lake for far too long, sparking anger among residents.

Last month, he said, it dumped sacks filled with fish carcasses into the basin of the lake.

“We demand firm sanctions against every company, including PT Aquafarm Nusantara, which pollutes Lake Toba,” Arimo said.

Environmental activists from the Lake Toba Lovers Foundation (YPDT) recently demanded that the police act on the matter.

YPDT executive secretary Johanes Marbun said the foundation had reported the case to the police in 2017, but nothing was done. They later lodged a report to the National Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (Bareskrim) on July 17, 2017.

Johanes said Bareskrim later delegated the case to the North Sumatra police, who then approached the foundation for more information in August.

“But surprisingly, they never summoned us again after that; we don’t know how the case is developing,” Johanes said, adding that YPDT had also provided the police with additional data on their latest findings.

According to Robert Paruhum Siahaan, head of YPDT’s litigation team, Toba Samosir Regent Darwin Siagian, Deputy Regent Hulman Sitorus and officers from the Toba Samosir police had seen for themselves the sacks of fish carcasses that had been dumped in the lake’s basin.

“Isn’t that enough evidence?”

North Sumatra Police special crimes investigation director Sr. Comr. Rony Samtana said the police would investigate the matter.

“This is an old file. We will trace it down. But rest assured,  if an offense has been made, it will be processed according to prevailing laws,” Rony said at his office.

The Jakarta Post has been unable to reach Aquafarm Nusantara for comments but did manage to get in touch with its former manager, Rudi Hertanto. He claimed he had left the company in November 2018 but denied that it had polluted the river when he was in charge.

“There was no pollution when I was with the company. Now, I don’t know the development,” he said.

Budianto, an official from the company’s corporate social responsibility division, said he did not know about the sanctions nor residents’ demands for the company’s closure.