Sunday, December 30, 2007

Electricity Crisis Disrupts Investment in West Kalimantan

*Mining of Peat land causes controversy

Safitri Rayuni*)

PONTIANAK, West Kalimantan

Government of the West Kalimantan have long stated that electricity crisis in the province is a big threat for investment growth. With the climax of burden at night time only as big as 150,3 megawatts in night time and 194,3 megawatts in the noon, the nation’s electricity company in West Kalimantan admits that they experience troubles in catering this capacity for the citizens’ satisfaction.

This was yet to include the need of electricity in the industrial section and others’ investments that might be larger. The company, up till now, only caters for half from the 4,2 million citizens in the province of West Kalimantan and thus labeling the region to be one which experiences electricity crisis.

Outside of the needs of investments, basing on rough assumption, in 2006, their capacity of catering for the electricity needs only comes up to 217 megawatts, with the production of electricity sold in 2000 to 2005 about 6.78 percent for public, 7.21 percent for industries, 21.55 percent for businesses and 64.47 percent for households.

According to the head of the environment and mining body of the West Kalimantan district of Pontianak, M Marcellus, it is important to involve a third party in answering this question. The plan of building the renewal of electricity through steam of peat land by Sebukit Group has been said to support the governance of the district Pontianak in helping the challenge of energy crisis in the area. Thus, last November the government has signed an agreement a Memorandum of Understanding with Sebukit group to start on that project.

“Electirical condition with the capacity existing now which doesn’t fulfill the citizen’s need is caused by the oil crisis we are experiencing. Thus, Pemda supports any kind of measures that investors do in managing local potential,” came his reply in a press conference.

This investing plan was then agreed on by the central government. Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources when visiting West Kalimantan states his support for this project. He guaranteed that they should receive help of APBN (The Nation’s budget of constructions and purchases) from the central government as much as 3 trillion Rupiah.

This agreement of the central government was received well by Usman Ja’far, the West Kalimantan Governor. He said that the province government would also help using the APBD fund. “Problems in regards to ownership of citizen’s 16 thousand hectares of land will also be solved well by the government,” He elaborated.

According to data from the West Kalimantan Agriculture and Food Plantation’s ordinance, terrains of peat lands are scattered in four districts and city, with various broadness. In the City of Pontianak, it reaches 5592 hectares, District Pontianak as broad as 450 thousand hectares, District Sambas 71250 hectares and District Ketapang as broad as 67250 hectares.

Peat lands in West Kalimantan are now still dominated by establishment of terrains or reclamation, be it terrains of agriculture or residence and also drainage. However, reclamation and digging of peat lands can endanger the continuity of or nature, according to academics and activists of live environment.

Lecturer of Soil Skills of Agriculture Faculty Universitas Tanjungpura, DR Gusti Zakaria Anshari MES, says that government should revise that plan. For in his opinion, peat lands are like a huge sponge that can be very useful to absorb soil water, so as to prevent flooding. West Kalimantan, being one of the lungs of the world, has already been faced with illegal logging issues, all the more it should not be destructed by mining of peat lands. If this were to happen, scientists predict that this can be a catalyst for global warming.

“It is important for the government to have a scientific revision with other parties before deciding to accept this investment. For the cost that will need to be spent on due to natural disasters caused can be bigger than the profit received from that investment,” He says.

This alumni of Monash University of Victoria Australia also emphasizes that digging of peat land with depth of even 2-3 meters can cause flood up to 10 meters. Pontianak’s environment that is surrounded by rivers with bad drainage is definitely a potential for that disaster to occur at. Even under normal condition without digging of peat lands, the government has already experienced difficulties handling drainage issue.

Activist of Wahana Lingkungan Hidup (WALHI), Basilius Hendi Candra says that Daerah Aliran Sungai (DAS) or (river’s outflow area) in Mempawah, Pontianak district, DAS Pinyuh and DAS Sungai Duri are now becoming more critical. More ironically, most of the rainforest that are left behind exist on peat lands. Meanwhile, the terrain will be functioned as a project plan to renew electricity through steam of peat land. “The big advantage of peat land in controlling flood needs to be understood by many,” He says.

This is also supported by Haryono, activist of World Wildlife Fund (WWF). He explains that every year, location that are under the three DAS will experience floods. What more, if peat lands are dug for the project of building the renewal of electricity through steam of peat land. He hopes that the government can reconsider if there already are any successful examples of using the medium of burning of peat lands.

Furthermore, landscape of these three DAS is critical. It is evident from the low percentage of vegetation, the acceleration of erosion year to year, the big ratio of debit river maximum and minimum, as well as the excessive concentration of mud. Most of the ecosystem is dominated by outspread of Kerangas, peat lands, mangroves and forest at lower grounds of Kalimantan.

Overall, the condition of the ecosystem is critical if seen from forest cover and hydrology function that it holds. Condition of what covers the peat lands (vegetation) are still good but if it should be a concession for electricity, its condition will deteriorate. The weaknesses of the environment that are caused from DAS are: condition of Mempawah river that is almost flat, until the flow of the river will be very dependant on how high the sea water is. For that, the peat lands that are to be converted become important as a buffer from outflows of the river that were obstructed (from the condition of the river that is almost flat)

The investor side, President of Director PT Sebukit Power, Endi Kurniawan says that his party are not in any difficulty in choosing location of the building of renewed electricity. Endi guarantees that the process will be facilitated with care to ensure rights for citizen and live environment are served.

“Besides establishing commitments with Klub Indonesia Hijau 21, we involve academic element in Universitas Tanjungpura and Universitas Muhammadiyah Pontianak, PT ERM Indonesia in utilizing studies through fulfilling prerequisites of analysis regarding impact towards the environment (AMDAL) due to the execution of this project,” He adds. (End)

*) Alumni of Soil Science, Agriculture Faculty, Tanjungpura University. Graduate with a script about peat land reclamation in Pontianak City, and got A point (excellent). Now, working as journalist on Borneo Tribune n Bisnis Indonesia

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