Ulma Haryanto & Fidelis E Satriastanti
In defiance of a Supreme Court ruling, Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo said on Wednesday that the city would proceed with a major sea reclamation project in North Jakarta, despite warnings from activists that it could have dire environmental consequences for the city and outlying areas.
“We will take legal steps and we are going to request a judicial review on that verdict,” said Fauzi, adding that in the meantime his administration would restart the project using the original permits issued to the city in 1994.
The plan to reclaim a 32-kilometer-long stretch of land in Jakarta Bay, providing an additional 2,700 hectares of land, was proposed in 1994, but was sidelined in 2003 by the Environmental Ministry after its environmental impact analysis was rejected.
Legal wrangling over the reclamation has followed ever since. The contractors initially working on the project filed a suit to overturn the ministry’s ban in the Jakarta Administrative Court. The court ruled in favor of the contractors, but the project remained suspended after the ministry appealed the court’s decision.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Ministry of Environment in July 2009. But the decision was only forwarded to the Jakarta Administrative Court in March. In Indonesia, the Supreme Court does not hand out rulings to the parties directly. Instead, it refers decisions back to the preceding court, which is charged with informing the parties of the higher court’s decision.
Fauzi went on to insist that the project would not harm the environment, and in fact would protect North Jakarta from rising sea levels. Scientists have predicted that global warming will cause sea levels to rise on Jakarta’s coasts by 31 centimeters over the next 50 years.
The ministry’s opposition to the project has been reinforced by a 2008 presidential decree on urban planning that demands tougher environmental standards for projects that would affect large regions.
Environmental groups and the ministry remain unconvinced: “Jakarta can only continue with its project if it has secured the sufficient anylysis,” said Hermien Rosita, who works on spatial planning and pollution control at the environment ministry. “Coordinators have not explained whether the 13 rivers disgorging into the North Jakarta coast would be affected.”
Hermien also said it was unclear whether the material for the landfill would be toxic.
Ubaidillah, from Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), said that all reclamations slow the flow of rivers. “Sea water could enter the rivers. This worsens floods,” he said. “If this project is not coordinated with Banten and West Java, how can it work? Floods inundate Banten without this project. What happens if it continues?”
Wiryatmoko, who heads the city’s urban planning office, agreed with the governor: “The reclamation gives more space for Jakarta’s development. And the 2008 presidential decree states reclamations [of seas] is allowed up to a depth of 8 meters.”
He also denied environmentalists’ claims that a reclamation of this scale would affect the water flow of 13 rivers, which disgorge into Jakarta Bay.