Indonesia updatePublished by MAC on 2007-05-04
4th May 2007
Further data has emerged on the damage caused by a Singapore firm in its mining of granite on the Riau Islands; while environmental groups urge the government to resist pressure from Singapore that it allow the resumption of sand mining from the province.
Granite Mining Threatens Riau Protected Forest
The Jakarta Post
4th May 2007
The protected forest on the slopes of Jantan and Betina mountains in Karimun regency, Riau Islands province, has been severely damaged, allegedly by mining in the area. A large area is now bare of plant life, and a large crater filled with deep blue water has developed. Activities at the Singapore-owned granite mine continue amid accusations of environmental destruction in the 19.7-hectare forest reserve.
The arrival of an investigative team including Riau Islands Police, staff from the Environment Ministry and environmental experts from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture earlier this week failed to draw the attention of workers.
As if unaware of the situation, a number of employees of the PT Karimun Granite company were seen marking the cliff face with bold letters, coordinate points for future blasting.
Basuki Waasis of the IPB told The Jakarta Post at the site that the forest conversion work carried out by the company had caused severe and irreparable damage to the environment and surrounding ecosystem.
"Just look at the condition of the soil and trees around that have died, and the rocks smashed arbitrarily. The quarry does not abide by eco-friendly procedures. The company has encroached into the protected forest, which has caused plants to die. The use of heavy machinery has damaged the ecosystem inside the forest," said Basuki.
The Environment Ministry and the Riau Islands Police have asked the team to assess the damage to done to forests.
"I have taken the required samples, such as soil and dead tree branches, and will analyze them," said Basuki.
Basuki also touched on the issue of the large crater caused by granite quarrying activities, the depth of which could have an adverse impact on the environment there. According to company data, the depth of the crater is around 80 meters below sea level, well beyond the tolerable limit of only 30 meters.
PT Karimun Granite has been working in the area since 1971. The company has changed management many times but it is still owned by the city-state. It owns a concession area of 2,761 ha, 1,000 ha of which is conservation forest. It has only used 165 ha since it began operations.
Approval from the Forestry Ministry is needed to exploit areas included in the preserved forest and carried various levels of compensation. Riau Islands Police chief of detectives Sr. Comr. Basaria Panjaitan said the company had exploited 19.7 ha of the forest without approval from the Forestry Ministry.
"The company has not obtained a permit from the ministry, so we arrested its bosses," said Basaria.
The Riau Islands Police have held managing director Huang He and operational director Peter Fock, both Singaporean nationals. They also detained general manager Arif Rahman and operational manager Toni Sopiandi on April 27. The four are liable to face a 10-year prison sentence and fines of Rp 5 billion for violating the 1999 Forestry Law.
However, police released Huang He and Peter Fock on April 28 after the men complained of skin rashes. They are being treated at the exclusive Awal Bross hospital in Batam.
According to operations manager Toni Sopiandi, the company produces around 5 million tons of granite annually, virtually all of which is shipped to Singapore, while only 5 percent of it is used to meet local demand, meaning that almost 180 million tons have been shipped to Singapore since it started operating 36 years ago.
"However, exports have been temporarily stopped for the past two months. Quarrying is still being carried out, but not consignments, due to the current dispute over granite exports," said Toni.
Govt Told Not to Resume S'pore Sand Exports
The Jakarta Post
4th May 2007
Representatives of the Riau Islands Maritime Education Foundation and non-governmental organizations urged the government Monday not to reopen sand exports to Singapore after the signing of an extradition treaties between the city state and Indonesia.
"The government should have made a thorough study if it wants to reopen the sand exports. Don't be in a hurry simply because the treaties have just been signed. We don't agree with this," Nada Faza Soraya, chairperson of the Maritime Education Foundation, said Monday. Nada, who is also chairperson of the Batam chapter of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, made the remarks following widespread discussion that sand exports would be reopened after the signing of the treaties.
Sand exports were banned in February by a Trade Ministry decree issued in January. The decree is subject to reevaluation every six months.
"Reopening sand exports would only cause a loss to Indonesia, mainly in the Riau Islands, ... not only in environmental damages due to the mining activities, but also due to Singapore's reclamation works. "The lane along the Malacca Strait is getting narrower in line with the expansion of Singapore's land. As a result islands in Riau Islands province are threatened with the danger of abrasion without any effort to get rid of it," Nada said.
Similar concerns were aired by Eddy Burmansyah, an NGO activist in Batam who kept watch of sand exports to Singapore. He urged to government not to reopen sand exports, regardless of the compensation offered by Singapore.
"There is no compensation that is parallel with the destruction of the environment in Riau Islands province. Don't use our province as a political commodity," he said.
Riau Islands Governor Ismeth Abdullah said he welcomed the signing of the extradition treaties as part of efforts to help eradicate corruption in Indonesia. Ismeth said he trusted the central government to deal with the sand export issus. A commitment to preserve the environment should become a joint agreement between all parties, he said.
"With regard to granite exports, for example, the provincial administration has made a commitment with exporters to set aside part of the revenue to improve the environment," he said.
Ismeth admitted the banning of sand exports had affected greatly to overseas sales of granite. Many granite exporters had stopped their operations for fear of being arrested, he added.