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Indonesia

Showdown looms over Indonesia coal plant

Construction on Central Java project could begin this month, but affected residents vow strong opposition

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Showdown looms over Indonesia coal plant
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The construction of a massive coal-fired power plant in Indonesia will threaten the livelihoods of people who depend on the surrounding lands, according to activists.

The Central Java Power Project, slated for Batang district in Central Java, would be one of the largest coal-fired plants in the region, according to Greenpeace Indonesia. But plans for the plant, which has a projected capacity of 2,000 megawatts, are also proving divisive.

“If the power plant construction continues, the villagers will surely lose their livelihoods,” Rahma Shofiana, a campaigner with Greenpeace Indonesia, told ucanews.com on Tuesday.

According to Greenpeace, at least 7,000 people in five villages in the area will be affected by the plant. Currently, at least 74 villagers have refused to sell their land to make way for the project, Shofiana said.

“These lands are productive rice fields,” she said. Additionally, activists believe waters near the plant will be contaminated should the project proceed.

“If the power plant construction continues, the waters will be contaminated with the power plant’s waste, and the fishermen won’t be able to go fishing anymore,” she said.

The World Bank and Japan are backing the controversial project, according to Greenpeace. PT Bhimasena Power Indonesia (BPI), a consortium, won the tender for the US$4-billion project in 2011.

Adaro Power of Indonesia is part of the joint venture. On its corporate website, Adaro says the project is a key part of Indonesia’s energy future.

“Without increasing its power generation capacity, Indonesia cannot fulfill its potential, and we aim through major projects such as the Central Java power plant to help the country develop at the pace it requires,” reads a statement on the website describing the project.

Either way, the project could mark a critical phase later this month, when construction is slated to begin.

President Joko Widodo told local media earlier this month that outstanding issues of land acquisition for the project had been resolved.

“It’s completed, no more problems. By the end of this month, we will go there for the ground-breaking ceremony,” Widodo said, as quoted by The Jakarta Post.

Some local residents, however, remain opposed, insisting they have not and will not sell their land.

On March 30, villagers from the area came to Jakarta to voice their opposition to the power plant.

“President Joko Widodo must listen to the people’s voices,” said Roidi, one of the affected villagers. “In fact, we, who reject the power plant construction, voted for him during the presidential election. The President must not push himself too hard for the project.”

If Widodo chooses to visit the area as construction gets underway later this month, he said, then local residents will be waiting for the president.

“We will stage a rally to reject the power plant construction,” he said.

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