MAC: Mines and Communities

Environmentalists protest rising popularity of coal

Published by MAC on 2009-02-23
Source: The Jakarta Post

Increased coal use could pose severe environmental threats for the nation, activists warned Monday.

"Using coal is not a sustainable solution, because it can severely damage the environment. The government must not use it in the long run," Darwina Sri Widjajanti, executive director of the Sustainable Development Foundation (YPB), told The Jakarta Post.

To counter the country's power shortages, the government has embarked on a 10,000-megawatt power plant project that will see a string of coal-fired plants spring up across the country.

Indonesia boasts the world's largest coal reserves, but also fast-depleting oil reserves, leading the government to turn to coal-fired power plants as the best solution to replace the oil-fueled plants currently in widespread use. With a long-term plan in place to build more coal-fired plants, analysts say coal production and domestic demand will also increase exponentially.

However, environmental groups are blasting the trend, saying coal produces more carbon in its combustion, and is thus more harmful for the environment.

Marta Szigeti Bonifert, executive director for the Regional Environmental Center (REC), said Indonesia was not the only country putting "too much hope" in coal, despite clear threats of climate change and a global energy crisis.

"If we continue to live the way we do now, global energy demand by 2030 will expand by 45 percent, with an average annual increase of 1.6 percent," she said. "Coal will account for a third of the overall rise."

Darwina added besides environmental damage, increased coal use would also cause health problems.

"The government must find a way to maximize the use of renewable energy, instead of continuing to rely on fossil fuels," she said, adding the government and industries could turn to geothermal energy and hydroelectric plants. Darwina said another threat specific to the Indonesian environment was the misuse of land, which could lead to deadly natural disasters.

"Many forests have now been wiped out and converted into farmland. Even worse, these areas are not developed properly," she said. (dis)

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