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In Indonesia’s Relentless Infrastructure Push, Taint of Corruption Weighs on Environment

Local houses on Bungkutoko Island in Southeast Sulawesi province, Indonesia. Photo by Kamarudin for Mongabay Indonesia
  • Investigators in Indonesia have arrested the mayor and former mayor of the city of Kendari for allegedly taking bribes in the awarding of a contract to build a land bridge to a new port set to open next year.
  • While the investigation is centered on corruption in the bidding process, activists have urged a thorough look into likely environmental violations, given that the project involves sea reclamation and forest-clearing.
  • The project continues, but has already claimed the livelihoods of the fishing community on whose tiny island the new container port is being built.

 

KENDARI, Indonesia — Like most residents of the tiny island of Bungkutoko in Indonesia’s Southeast Sulawesi province, Mahrudin and Nurhaeti are a fishing family. But their boat has remained beached recently, and the couple stay inside their small house.

The island sits just 100 meters (330 feet) from the Sulawesi mainland, but the strait — and the fishing grounds it represents for the Bungkutoko islanders — is disappearing as developers reclaim the sea to build a road to a new container port being developed on the southeastern tip of the island.

The Kendari Newport is expected to go into operation by next year, replacing the old port in Kendari, the provincial capital. The project is part of the government’s wider “maritime highway” program, meant to revive existing ports and build new ones across the far-flung Indonesian archipelago.

“You can see for yourself, [the sea] has turned into land,” Mahrudin tells Mongabay.

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