MAC: Mines and Communities

Minister of Health Abandons Victims of Buyut Bay Pollution

Published by MAC on 2005-05-25

Minister of Health Abandons Victims of Buyut Bay Pollution

Press Release - ELSAM, WALHI, JATAM, LBH Jakarta, MER-C, TAWB

May 25th 2005

Jakarta. The problem of contamination, a polemic for the last eleven months, has yet to reach a fair settlement. People of Buyat, who demand a relocation from their currently contaminated land, haven’t seen any realizations of government’s promises. So far, health problems handling is still rhetoric bragged by the Health Department with no actions being taken to fulfill it.

People of Buyat Bay complained of unclear, protracted handling of their health problems. In December 2004 and January 2005, they came to the Ministry of Environment as well as Health Department to ask for relocation as a recommendation from Integrated Team of Ministry of Environment that they are promised to receive immediately.

But up until the following four months, the promise was never fulfilled. Despite government’s promises of free health treatments, people still had to pay for treatment and medication costs at government-appointed hospitals. A necessary Poor Family Card which is hard to get, along with other complicated bureaucratic procedures from all levels of government officials hinder them from the free medication.

In the mid January 2005, officials from Health Department pledged to immediately to salve the sick people, and to perform audit to deviant hospitals that don’t give appropriate services, ranging from those of provincial scale in North Sulawesi, up to local health posts in Ratatotok area. But in reality, ill people are abandoned without any certainty of when to be treated.

“We warn the Minister of Health not to delay health treatments that Buyat people are entitled to,” asserted Siti Maimunah of Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM).

On the research done by Health Department to find out if there is a heavy metal contamination victimizing people of Buyat, a researcher of WALHI said that it was not sufficient and comprehensive. “Health Minister doesn’t truly handle the problem,” he said.

Dr. Zackya who leads MER-C Health Team remarked “In the current condition, there’s no better solution than relocating people to safe areas.” According to her, people’s health is deteriorating due to their contaminated living environment.

Meanwhile, Uli Parulian sihombing of Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) asserted, “Health Minister has abandoned people of Buyat without any sufficient health treatments.”

Notes to the editor:

1. The research of Integrated Team of Ministry of Environment (2004) concluded that Buyat Bay area is contaminated with highly toxic mining wastes and poses risks to human beings. Several recommendations of tasks for the health department are (section 6):

a. Health Department must immediately study the arsenic poisoning from which people suffer, with the following symptoms: acute skin irritation, bruises, short-windedness, and headache, and to be followed up then by monitoring environmental quality that might gives impacts, be it at present or in the future. The health research has to be oriented towards causal relationship (causality design research).

b. Health Department, in coordination with other departments, should immediately relocate the people of Buyat Bay to other proper environments for living.

c. Health Department, in coordination with the Ministry of Environment and the local government, should immediately conduct intensive evaluation to identify the main source of contamination by analyzing people’s health, monitoring and giving sufficient health services to the victims of Arsenic contamination.

2. In June 2004, about 80% of people in Buyat Pante who were medically checked up by the Faculty of Health and Medicine, Sam Ratulangi University (UNSRAT), were reported to suffer from similar average symptoms, namely itches throughout the body, convulsions, cramps, continuous headache, bruises in hands, feet, nape, head, and breasts. The analysis found the fact that the symptoms from which almost all of people in Buyat suffer are caused by heavy metal contamination. And it demands a more comprehensive research as well as more sufficient medications.

3. The health research done by the Health Department used a Cross Sectional Study (CSS) method , whose aim was only to know the level of heavy metal contamination to Buyat people, while the integrated team recommended that the research be oriented to find out causality design between the rampant diseases and sources of contamination it found.

4. TAWB (Advocacy Team for Buyat People) are TAPAL, ELSAM, TATR, JATAM, WALHI, LBH Jakarta, and PBHI.

Media Contact: Adi Widyanto (JATAM)

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