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Faulty impact assessments plague Indonesian mines: Komnas HAM

Kendeng’s karst mountains provide local people with water for irrigation. Photo: Tommy Apriando

A member of Indonesia’s National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) held up the Rembang cement factory case as an example of how environmental impact assessments are frequently manipulated by the companies required to undertake them.

“Every mining operation needs an impact assessment, and there’s supposed to be a scientific process,” Komnas HAM commissioner Nur Khoiron said at a recent discussion hosted by the Indoneisa Institute of Sciences (LIPI). “Unfortunately, it only serves as a tool for legitimizing these operations.”

The impact assessment, or AMDAL, is one of the most important permits mining and plantation companies must obtain before commencing operations. It marks the point in the process where community members and civil society have a chance to weigh in.

In practice, the scientists who carry out the assessment are typically hired by the company, creating a conflict of interest, while local people are often blocked from substantively participating.

Khorion reminded LIPI of its responsibility to ensure the legitimacy of these processes and criticized supposedly neutral academics who only serve as “the company’s handyman.”

In Rembang, Central Java, where a government-sponsored cement factory project has caused one of Indonesia’s most high-profile land conflicts and resulted in a court case, local people are upset about certain academics’ support for the company, whose plans they fear threaten water supplies that hundreds of thousands of people depend on.

In March, farmers and residents from Rembang demonstrated outside Gadja Mada University (UGM) in Yogyakarta in protest of lecturers they felt had testified dishonestly in favor of the company.

Dozens of residents of Rembang and Pati regencies in Central Java gather outside Gajah Mada University in Yogyakarta. Photo: Tommy Apriando

Gunretno, a member of the Kendeng Mountains Community Care Network, took issue with UGM professor Eko Haryono’s statements in court that the landscape in question consisted of a type of karst that could legally be mined. Gunretno argued instead that the area was protected by law.

Produced in English by Philip Jacobson.




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