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Govt under fire over oil spill

Govt accused of inaction over leak that has harmed nature, livelihoods of many

West Timor Care Foundation chief Ferdi Tanoni (Photo Albertus V. Rehi) West Timor Care Foundation chief Ferdi Tanoni (Photo Albertus V. Rehi)
  • by Albertus V. Rehi, Kupang
  • Indonesia
  • July 23, 2012
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A prominent American oil spill expert has criticized what he says has been government inaction in dealing with the lingering impacts of the 2009 Montara spill in the Timor Sea.

“We are really concerned that the Indonesian government has failed to take proactive action to deal with the issue,” Dr Robert Spies, who was Chief Scientist for the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, said on Saturday.

He was speaking at a discussion organized by the West Timor Care Foundation (YPTB), in Kupang, capital of East Nusa Tenggara province.

According to Australia’s Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, the Montara oil platform leaked an estimated 2,000 barrels a day from August 21 to November 3 that year following a blowout. The World Wildlife Fund said the resulting slick reached almost 90,000 square kilometers in size and entered Indonesian waters.

A team led by the Environment Ministry said the slick covered 16,420 square meters of Indonesian maritime territory, and YPTB, which supports poor fishermen in eastern Indonesia, estimated the spill affected the livelihoods of around 18,000 fishermen.

Spies, who served as an adviser to US government after the 2010 British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, suggested during the discussion that the Indonesian government work together with the Australians to deal with the fallout from the spill which has affected about 2,500 sea biota species.

YPTB chief Ferdi Tanoni, who calls the Timor Sea oil spill as “a forgotten tragedy,” acknowledged that the Indonesian government has not yet shown any signs of seriously attempting address the issue which created financial losses amounting to US$1.7 billion. “The Indonesian government cannot remain silent. Together with the Australian government, they must conduct research,” he said.

Also attending the discussion was Leonard Haning, head of Rote Ndao district, the worst-affected area.

“People in the district are still suffering due to the spill. Their fish catches have decreased by 60 percent and seaweed cultivation has dropped from 10 to three tons per hectare. The quality is also poor,” he said.

The Montara platform was owned by Norwegian-Bermudan Seadrill, and operated by PTTEP Australasia.
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