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On an Island in the Sun, Coal Power is King Over Abundant Solar

Balinese fishermen from Celukan Bawang village stage a protest against the coal plant for pollution and job loss. Image courtesy of Greenpeace.

 

  • Locals and environmentalists have opposed a plan to expand a coal-fired power plan in northern Bali, Indonesia.
  • They are worried that the expansion will exacerbate the existing impact of the plant on the environment and locals’ health and livelihoods.
  •  A particular concern focuses on the survival of dolphins and endemic species living in close proximity to the plant, with Greenpeace saying the dolphins have particularly been affected since the plant came on line in 2015.
  • Another major worry is air pollution, with many locals complaining of respiratory ailments as a result of the fumes and coal dust emitted from the plant.

 

JAKARTA — Dolphins haven’t had it easy in Bali, a resort island in Indonesia that’s massively popular with tourists.

They’re often held captive in chlorinated pools for traveling circuses; a report alleges that dolphins at one such outfit had their teeth filed down or removed altogether to prevent bite injuries to swimmers.

But the biggest challenge they face is one that threatens their habitat and that could potentially drive them away from the island’s waters. That challenge comes in the form of a massive coal-fired power plant in the sleepy fishing village of Celukan Bawang, on Bali’s north coast. The plant lies west of the popular Lovina Beach, a prime spot for dolphin-watching boat tours.

But the tour operators could soon be out of business, if the grim scenario painted by a Greenpeace report plays out. Since the plant began operating in 2015, the environmental watchdog says, it has dumped coal waste residue on the land and in the sea, wreaking havoc on the local ecosystem. The steady traffic of coal barges supplying the plant have also damaged coral reefs and driven away fish.

The impact has been far-reaching, the report says, with local fishermen forced to sail further out to sea because of declining catches in their traditional fishing areas closer to shore.

In hot water

 

Didit Haryo, a climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Indonesia, says dolphins are among the animals most affected by the power plant.

The plant is just 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Lovina Beach, and as such lies easily within the typical dolphin roaming range of around 40 kilometers.

“In the past, locals in Celukan Bawang said there were still many dolphins passing by,” Didit told Mongabay. “But they say they rarely see dolphins nowadays.”

There are several ways in which the plant is potentially impacting the local dolphin population, says Putu Liza Kusuma Mustika, a marine mammal expert at the University of Queensland in Australia.

Read moreOn an Island in the Sun, Coal Power is King Over Abundant Solar

Environmental Defenders Fear Backlash as Defendant Sues Expert Over Testimony

Basuki Wasis (third from left, holding a mic), an environmental expert from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB), speaks during a press conference at the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI)’s office in Jakarta. Photo courtesy of YLBHI.

 

  • Basuki Wasis, an environmental expert whose testimony helped convict a provincial governor of abuse of power, now faces a lawsuit brought by the latter for alleged inaccuracies in his calculations of environmental damage.
  • The lawsuit against Basuki is similar to one he faced last year from a palm oil company that was fined for setting fires on its concession. The earlier lawsuit was dropped, but the company now appears to be targeting another expert witness who testified against it.
  • The litigation has sparked concerns among environmental experts and activists alike, who fear it will have a silencing effect and allow environmental crimes to go unpunished.
  • They also worry that without financial assessments of damages caused to the environment, prosecutors trying corruption cases in the natural resources sector will not be able to push for longer prison sentences and heavier fines.

 

JAKARTA — Environmental experts and activists are closely watching a lawsuit filed against an academic whose testimony helped convict a governor on corruption charges, in a case many fear could set a worrying precedent.

Basuki Wasis, an expert on environmental degradation from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB), has testified in more than 200 cases involving environmental crimes such as forest fires and pollution.

On Feb. 14 this year, he testified as a prosecution witness against Nur Alam, the suspended governor of Southeast Sulawesi, who was charged with abuse of power in the issuance of mining licenses. Basuki told the court that the illegal mining activities by one of the companies that received a permit from Alam had led to deforestation and resulted in 2.7 trillion rupiah ($196 million) in combined ecological losses, environmental economic losses, and the cost of repairing the damage.

On March 12, Alam’s lawyers filed a lawsuit against Basuki, questioning the accuracy of his calculations and his credibility. (Alam was convicted on March 28; he was sentenced to 12 years in prison and ordered to pay fines and damages totaling 3.7 billion rupiah, or $268,000.)

Read moreEnvironmental Defenders Fear Backlash as Defendant Sues Expert Over Testimony