Graft arrests linked to Indonesia’s contested land reclamation projects

Protesters campaign against proposed Benoa Bay project in Bali last month. Photo: Amilia Rosa Benoa Bay masterplan. Model of what Benoa Bay reclamation would look like. Photo: Supplied
Nanjing Night Net

Benoa Bay as it is now. Photo: Amilia Rosa

Jakarta:   Allegations of bribery and corruption will further mire controversial land reclamation projects across Indonesia, already hotly contested by locals and environmentalists.

Jakarta City councillor Muhammad Sanusi and two employees from property developer PT Agung Podomoro Land – president director Ariesman Widjaja and staffer Trinanda Prihantoro have been named suspects by Indonesia’s Corruption Eradition Commission, the Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK).

Last Friday, Sanusi was arrested for allegedly receiving a 2 billion rupiah ($199,000) bribe from a property developer to expedite the approval of bylaws required for zoning the reclamation area.

There are more than 15 planned reclamation projects across Indonesia, including a $3 billion project to build artificial islands in the middle of Benoa Bay in Bali.

Many are highly controversial on the grounds they could cause flooding, damage the maritime ecosystem and destroy the livelihood of local fishermen.

The Jakarta administration has issued construction permits for some of the artificial islands in North Jakarta even though bylaws on zoning and small islands should be passed beforehand.

Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) spokesman Edo Rakhman told Fairfax Media that reclamation projects should be halted nationwide.

“Because in many reclamation projects we monitor, the pattern is the same – permits for developers to do reclamation are issued before the zoning bylaw is in place,” he said.

“It means there is a chance of developers bribing the provincial parliamentarians who must draft the bylaw.”

He said developers had also issued construction permits for developers to commence reclamation projects in Palu in Central Sulawesi and Manado in North Sulawesi without bylaws being in place.

“In 2013 there were big floods in Manado we believe were caused by the reclamation project,” Mr Edo said, while in Palu biodiversity was shrinking.

The proposed Benoa Bay reclamation in Bali has spawned one of the largest environmental movements in Indonesia’s history, with thousands of demonstrators staging regular protest marches.

Some protesters have even claimed they would commit puputan (a Balinese ritualistic flight to the death) to stop it proceeding.

Balinese Forum Against Reclamation (ForBALI) coordinator Wayan “Gendo” Suardana said the Corruption Eradication Commission – one of Indonesia’s most respected institutions – must expand its investigation to include the Benoa Bay reclamation.

“It has a similar MO (modus operandi) – a fast approval from the president … only within five months, disregarding the voices of concern from the community.”

Tensions are high in Bali with a government decision already overdue on an environmental impact analysis that would give the Benoa Bay reclamation project the green light to proceed.

Meanwhile, Jakarta’s governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama has vowed the reclamation project in North Jakarta will go ahead despite the alleged graft.

Jakarta is slowly sinking into the sea, largely due to the extraction of ground water, dropping more than seven centimetres a year on average.

A consortium of Dutch companies prepared the Great Garuda masterplan, which it says is a combination of coastal protection and land reclamation.

“The problem is very urgent: because of extreme subsidence a significant part of Jakarta is already below sea level,” Dutch architecture practice KuiperCompagnons says on its website.

“Due to the delayed maintenance of the seawalls the water threat for the more than four million inhabitants of North Jakarta will become more and more serious in the coming years.”

However a study by the Indonesian Affairs and Fisheries Ministry has warned the project could erode islands on the western part of Jakarta, destroy coral reefs and cause pollutants to be trapped inside the seawall. Thousands of fishermen would also have to be relocated.

With Karuni Rompies and Amilia Rosa

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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