ICEL

ICEL

In Indonesia, a Company Intimidates, Evicts and Plants Oil Palm Without Permits

A farmer in Maroangin shows where the company planted oil palms on his rice fields. Image by Ian Morse for Mongabay.
  • A state-owned plantation company, PTPN XIV, is evicting farmers to make room for an oil palm estate on the eastern Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
  • In 1973, the company got a permit to raise cattle and farm tapioca on the now-disputed land, but it expired in 2003. After a long hiatus, the company has returned to claim the land. It says the government has promised to give it permits in the future, but has started operations anyway even as local communities resist.
  • The case is one of thousands of land disputes simmering across Indonesia, as President Joko Widodo attempts to carry out an ambitious land reform program.
  • The president has also ordered a freeze on the issuance of new oil palm plantation permits, but the level of enforcement remains to be seen.

MAROANGIN, Indonesia — One day in March last year, Rahim was shocked and furious to find an excavator rolling through his rice field, turning the bright green grains into piles of mud. The 51-year-old farmer took photos of the incursion and demanded to know why his family’s livelihood was being uprooted.

Rahim had been farming the land for 15 years, but the workers on the scene said he was trespassing on land that belonged to a company. No company held a license to operate there, much less evict residents, but Rahim didn’t know that. Now he was being told that rows of oil palm trees would be planted where his rice was growing.

“When I can’t farm rice, how is my family supposed to eat?” Rahim said at his home in Maroangin, a village on the eastern Indonesian island of Sulawesi. The father of four recalled having cried as he watched the rice, almost ready to harvest, disappear before him. A harvest that size could have supported his family for months. Many of his neighbors also reported having their farms and pastures taken over by the company, state-owned PT Perkebunan Nusantara (PTPN) XIV.

Like countless other farmers across Indonesia, Rahim doesn’t have a deed to the land he says his family has occupied for generations. That leaves him with scant legal defense to claims laid on it by the state or private companies.

Read moreIn Indonesia, a Company Intimidates, Evicts and Plants Oil Palm Without Permits

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