In brief... DTE 60 - February 2004


Fatal chemical explosion, East Java

WALHI East Java has called for a halt to production and an investigation into PT Petrowidada following an explosion at the company's chemical plant on January 20 which resulted in two dead, 50 others severely injured, and dozens evacuated from the surrounding area. A joint investigation by WALHI East Java and other local groups has documented several past explosions.

The company, which produces basic materials for plastic - pthalic anhydride (PA) and maleic anhydride (MA) - was located within the Gresik Industrial Area, in East Java. The cause of the explosion is being investigated by the police. Zainal Arifin, director general of the ministry of trade and industry said the fire was an indictment of the poor security and safety systems of chemical companies across Indonesia and said he could not rule out that the company was to blame. Nearby homes belonging to local residents were also destroyed or damaged by the fire. Communities living in the surrounding area have complained about water contamination in their wells. The water used for bathing has a foul smell and causes itchiness.

The company is part-owned by PT Petrokimia Gresik which is 99.99% owned by PT Pusri, Southeast Asia's biggest fertiliser company. Other companies owned by PT Pusri also have a poor environmental record. In 2000 an ammonia leak in a storage facility owned by the company in South Sumatra affected 28 people (see DTE 47). (WALHI Updates No.14, Jan/2004; Asian Labour News 23/Jan/04;


WALHI fights Ladia Galaska road in court

Banda Aceh's court has accepted a suit against the local and national government, brought by environmental organisation WALHI, for illegally constructing the Ladia Galaska road through the Gunung Leuser National Park. WALHI is suing the Aceh governor Abdullah Puteh, five other Aceh officials and the national government for going ahead with the 500 km project without a proper evaluation of the road's environmental impact assessment. The director of EU-funded Leuser Development Programme, said he'd heard the road was 30-40% complete. The contract to build the road through this unique and severely threatened ecosystem was awarded last August. However, President Megawati is due to visit Aceh soon to formally open the road scheme. (Jakarta Post 19/Jan/04). For background see DTE 55.


NGOs demand ratification of international rights conventions

A coalition of 96 Indonesian NGOs has urged the government to ratify all international conventions on human rights. "With the ratification of those conventions, the public will have a stronger legal basis to demand that the government protect the basic rights of its citizens" said coalition co-ordinator Bambang H. Lukito of the Indonesian Legal Aid Association (PBHI). The call came on Human Rights Day, December 2003. The coalition includes human rights organisations Kontras and Imparsial as well as NGOs Elsam and WALHI. Activists held a rally in Jakarta, demanding investigations into human rights violations since 1965 and the trials of rights abusers. "We also demand that the Megawati government stops being a puppet of the military," said one of the rally co-ordinators. (Jakarta Post 11/Dec/03).


Archbishop Tutu calls on UN to act on West Papua

Nobel Laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has called on United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to instigate a review of the UN's role in the takeover of West Papua by Indonesia. "The people of West Papua have been denied their basic human rights, including their right to self-determination. Their cry for justice and freedom has fallen largely on deaf ears", he said in a statement in Dublin in February.

"It is with deep concern I have learned about the United Nations' role in the take-over of West Papua by Indonesia, and in the now-discredited "Act of `Free' Choice" of 1969. Instead of a proper referendum, where every adult male and female had the opportunity to vote by secret ballot on whether or not they wished to be part of Indonesia, just over 1,000 people were hand-picked and coerced into declaring for Indonesia in public in a climate of fear and repression. (Full statement at


GEF policies on protected areas out of date

Research by Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) has found that policies and procedures practised by the Global Environment Facility, the environment financing mechanism co-implemented by the World Bank, continue to support an outdated, exclusionary model of protected areas. This involves removing resident populations and indigenous peoples who live inside areas designated as parks and nature reserves to buffer zones and providing them with 'alternative livelihoods'. This approach, says FPP, is at odds with the requirements of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the instructions of the Conference of Parties and international best practice on protected areas.

The briefing, The Global Environment Facility (GEF), Biodiversity Conservation and Indigenous Peoples, reviews GEF policies and procedures relevant to protected areas and indigenous peoples. See www.forestpeoples.orgor contact (For background information on the GEF in Indonesia see IFI Factsheet No 18, December 2001, or for the Indonesian version.)


Central Java nuclear project revived

Work on the Muria nuclear power plant (PLTN) in Jepara regency, Central Java, will start soon, a senior government official said in February. Arnold Y. Soetrisnanto, head of the Nuclear Energy Development Center of the National Nuclear Power Agency (BATAN), said that the agency would start a feasibility study into the project this year. He said the plant would consist of six generator units, each capable of generating 1,000 megawatts, would cost US$12 billion and would be completed in 2016. Soestrisnanto also said the government would involve private parties in the funding of the project, including Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Company. Soetrisnanto said he hoped that people living near the site would agree with the project. (Jakarta Post 10/Feb/04)

The Suharto-era nuclear power programme, which planned seven to twelve power stations was shelved when the economic crisis hit in 1997. A feasibility study carried out by Japan's Newjec concluded in 2001 that the Central Java site, at the foot of the dormant Mt Muria volcano, was suitable, but the study was never made public (see DTE 33:13 for more details). There have been intermittent signs that the government wants to resurrect the nuclear power programme: last year WALHI circulated an AFP report which said that Indonesia and South Korea were considering jointly building a $200 million nuclear power plant on the island of Madura, off the northern coast of East Java (see DTE 57).


Kotopanjang campaign

The environmental group WALHI is demanding that Japanese agencies and companies involved in the Kotopanjang dam project release key documents. A suit was against Japan's ODA and other defendants, brought by WALHI on behalf of over 8,000 victims started proceedings in Tokyo in September 2002 (see IFIs Update 28

The Kotopanjang dam in Riau, Sumatra was built on protected forest and the adat (customary) land of local communities in 1997 at a cost of 36.4 billion Yen, almost all of which was a Japanese government loan. 12,400 hectares of land was submerged and evicted communities given only Rp30 per square metre of farmland (then worth about 1.5 cents). Those who objected were intimidated by the military.

WALHI has launched a campaign against secrecy at the trial. To support the call for the disclosure of the loan agreement for Kotopanjang go to