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Jakarta cancels permits for controversial bay reclamation project

An illustration showing the 17 artificial islands, part of the planned Jakarta Bay reclamation development project. Image courtesy of FISIP Universitas Indonesia.

  • The Jakarta administration has revoked permits to develop 13 of 17 artificial islands that are part of a $40 billion land reclamation project off the coast of the Indonesian capital.
  • The project aimed to slow the high rate of land subsidence in Jakarta, but its critics, including the current governor, say it harms the environment and threatens the livelihoods of local fishing communities.
  • An NGO leading the opposition to the project has called for permanent measures to halt the project, given that earlier suspensions to the same effect were eventually lifted.
  • Four of the affected islands have already been completed; the city administration says it will put these to use in the public interest.

JAKARTA — The Jakarta administration says it has finally pulled the plug on a $40 billion land reclamation project pushed by the Indonesian government off the coast of the nation’s capital.

Citing failures to pay tax and obtain environmental impact assessments, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said his office had cancelled the “principal permits” of seven developers involved in the construction of 13 of the 17 planned islets in Jakarta Bay. The permits gave the developers two years to get their plans approved, including the EIA, known locally as Amdal.

“Based on our findings, [the developers] have not carried out their responsibilities, so that’s why we revoked their permits,” the governor told reporters at a press conference at City Hall on Sept. 26.

These reclaimed islands are part of the Giant Sea Wall project, launched in 2014 by the national government to mitigate the high rate of land subsidence in Jakarta as seawater encroaches further inland. The plan was also supported by the Jakarta administration at the time, led by then-Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.

But that support ended when Basuki lost his re-election bid in 2017 to Anies, who had made ending the reclamation project a centerpiece of his campaign.

The project has been criticized by environmental activists and advocates for local fishing communities, who say it causes harm to the ecosystem and threatens livelihoods.

At the press conference announcing the revocation of the permits, Anies said he was prepared to be sued by the developers. “The reclamation is a part of the history of Jakarta, but it will not be a part of its future,” he added.

Reclamation of four of the islands — known as Islets C, D, G and N — has already been completed. Anies said his administration was drawing up zoning plans for these islands. “We will prepare them for the public interest,” he said.

This isn’t the first time the project has been halted, however. In early 2016, the environment ministry ordered a suspension of work on three of the islets — C, D and G — citing environmental concerns. The suspension also came amid a corruption investigation that eventually led to the jailing of a city councilor for taking a bribe from one of the developers to help bypass spatial planning regulations for the reclamation project.

The suspension was lifted a year and a half later, and work on the islets resumed.

There’s no guarantee that the revocation of the permits this time around will be any more lasting, said Tigor Hutapea, a lawyer for the Coalition to Save Jakarta Bay (KSTJ), an NGO opposed to the reclamation.

“If it’s just [a matter of] revoking permits, [the developers] can still reapply for them,” Tigor told local news outlet Tirto.

The following are the seven developers whose permits have been revoked and the islets they are responsible for:

  1. PT Kapuk Naga Indah (Islets A, B and E)
  2. PT Pembangunan Jaya Ancol (I, J and K)
  3. PT Manggala Krida Yudha (M)
  4. PT Jakarta Propertindo (O and F)
  5. KEK Marunda Jakarta (P and Q)
  6. PT Taman Harapan Indah (H)
  7. PT Jaladri Kartika Pakci (I)

Banner image of an rendering of the 17 artificial islands, part of the planned Jakarta Bay reclamation development project. Image courtesy of the University of Indonesia’s School of Social and Political Studies.

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