NOV 10, 2016 11:50 AM PST

Are Jakarta's artificial islands actually environmentally-friendly?

This article has been republished from Mongabay News. It has been edited for publication purposes.

The developers behind Islet G, a small artificial island off the coast of Jakarta, may have finally been given the legal green light to continue the project, which has been stalled since April of this year.

On Oct. 20, an Indonesian court overturned a lower court’s earlier ruling that Islet G developer PT Muara Wisesa Samudra (MWS) must halt land reclamation activities in the Jakarta Bay. The lower court’s decision came in response to a lawsuit filed by the Coalition for Saving the Jakarta Bay, an alliance of fishing communities and environmental activists. The group claims the development of Islet G, which is part of a broader plan to construct 17 artificial islands in Jakarta Bay, is causing environmental damage to the bay and destroying the livelihoods of local fishermen. On May 31, a local court in Jakarta agreed with the plaintiffs, ordering the company to cease development and instructing Jakarta’s governor to revoke the development permit issued by the city in 2014.
Fishermen attempt to shut down Islet G, an artificial island at the center of the controversy related to the Jakarta Bay land reclamation project. Photo by Sapariah Saturi.
The decision to overturn this ruling came just over a month after the Coordinating Maritime Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan announced that the project could move ahead despite the lower court’s order to halt development. “At the moment there is no reason for us not to continue with the reclamation of the North Jakarta coast,” Pandjaitan told Mongabay-Indonesia. The Jakarta Bay reclamation project, which proponents say will reduce pollution in the bay while opening up space for new housing in the densely populated city, was temporarily halted in April 2016 by Pandjaitan’s predecessor, Rizal Ramli.

Although Pandjaitan and others have stated that the project is now free to continue, the fate of Islet G is still far from certain, and many residents are concerned for the environmental consequences on the project.

Environmental and Forestry Spatial Planning Director-General San Afri Awang, who was part of the joint task force, echoed Bakar’s statement. He further explained that the company must revise the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment to address task force findings related to potential social, economic and environmental consequences of the project. “Environmental issues must not be neglected,” he said.

After the court announced its decision on Islet G in October, Bakar made a similar statement, explaining that the court ruling did not mean the project could immediately resume as the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment needed to be updated.“Reclamation cannot continue if the environmental document has not been revised,” Bakar told Indonesia’s Tempo Magazine on Oct. 21.
Construction taking place on Islet G. Development was halted earlier this year, but a recent court ruling may have cleared the way for continued work on the land reclamation project. Photo by Sapariah Saturi.
Meanwhile the Indonesian Traditional Fishermen Union (KNTI), one of the organizations involved in filing the lawsuit, said the coalition would report to the Jakarta Police anyone involved in construction activities related to Islet G and several other artificial islands.“The project has ruined the environment and harmed the livelihood of fishermen,” said Marthin Hadiwinata of KNTI told the Jakarta Post last month. The project, he explained, would cost fishing communities over $2,000 annually for every hectare of seabed reclaimed.

“We can charge them under Article 86 of the Fishery Law,” Hadiwinata said, citing a law under which those intentionally conducting activities that cause damage to fisheries or pollute fishing areas can be penalized with up to 10 years in prison or IDR 2 billion ($152,000) in fines.

While Ahok claims that the land reclamation project will also help address environmental concerns such as water pollution, the government’s joint task force came to a different conclusion. After a two-month investigation, the team identified a wide range of problems including increased land subsidence, decreased groundwater levels, flooding at high tide and increased pollution and sedimentation in the bay.

Of these problems, the task force reported that sedimentation would have particularly severe environmental consequences due to its effect on the conditions of the 13 rivers that run through Jakarta, carrying industrial and household waste from around the region.

Other experts share this concern. Oceanographer Alan F. Koropitan from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) told the Jakarta Post last month that the project would affect currents from the highly polluted rivers, which would “cause severer pollution” in the already polluted bay.

The project is also expected to have significant economic implications. The Coalition to Save the Jakarta Bay estimate that annual losses related to the project would reach IDR 178.1 billion, or approximately $13.5 million. This figure is based on a 2012 report written by the Danish Hyraulic Institute (DHI) Water & Environment. The report calculated losses related to the impact on fishing activities, the increased risk of floods, the loss of ecosystem services from the destruction of mangrove habitat, and a reduction in power generation due to the project’s impact on several local power plants.
 

Sources: Mongabay News, Asean Today
About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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