The project “Indonesia:Just another Day” aims to report some of the problems afflicting this country in the aftermath of the tsunami tragedy.
December, 26th. 2004: the Indian Ocean Tsunami destroyed the costal area of Banda Aceh. Everything came erased. Indonesia faced an enormous loss of lives and, also, a massive loss of livelihoods with the destruction of thousand and thousand hectares of rice paddies and the main part of fishing industry.
Province of Riau, Sumatra. Before oil was discovered by the Us companies, Pekanbaru, Duri and Dumai were sleepy little towns. In the last years they became modern cities, and the main oil centres of the whole country. Provincial authorities have long complained that too little of the oil being pumped out of Riau was benefiting its own people, doing little to alleviate the poverty that contributes to the haze problem. Poor farmers, lacking modern machinery, still rely on slash-and-burn techniques to clear new land for farming, devastating entire zones and producing smog and pollution. More, the region was deeply transformed by the wild deforestation and the huge exploitation of the natural resources, necessary for the oil pumping. Oil plants, paper industries and forest fires have increased the pollution to astonishing levels.
Jakarta, our days: the city of the central government, a continuously developing megalopolis with 12 million inhabitants. Futuristic buildings, luxury homes and enormous shopping centres are set next to an increasingly large number of shantytowns where people live in appallingly poor conditions. During the past twelve years the excessive exploitation of the aquifers and uncontrollable property speculation has caused the city to sink by over 100 cm.
East Java, Porong district. Since the end of May, 2006, approximately 100,000 cubic metric tons of boiling mud has been leaking out of a fault, created by perforation wells made by the Lapindo Brantas Company in Porong, regency of Sidoarjo, East Java. The goal of drilling was to find pockets of petroleum and natural gas in zones considered seismically dangerous.
The balance sheet of this disaster becomes increasingly more serious: thousands hectacres of rice fields, 14,000 houses, farms, schools, and mosques have been submerged in mud, 50,000 internally displaced people have lost their property and jobs, about 200 people work each day in the “symbollic” fight against nature, dozens of trucks make about 700 trips a day bringing earth to support the rim of the first surrounding ring, the first barrier against the leaking mud from the fault. It is an aimless fight costing a billion dollars without any result. Fours years on, victims of the mudflow are still in limbo.
Papua: the western part of the worldʼs second largest island, one of the most critical areas of Indonesia, linked to Banda Aceh for the inhabitantʼs desire of being independent and to the Riau Province for the exploitation of the natural resources. Here the central government established the Irian Jaya Province, despite the cultural and ethnic differences with the rest of the population. For years, the president promises special autonomy for Papuan people, but all the guarantees were vain, and the government kept going on buying time and overexploiting the enormous natural resources of the island. Also the rebellious activities of the OBMʼ separatists didnʼt produce any result. The Indonesian Government is well aware of the destructive impact of industrial logging in West Papua.
Even aside from the effects of the tsunami the natural environment also takes a battering. In Pekanbaru and East Java oil extraction causes immense damage to the environment. Seeing that, one almost gets the impression that with the tsunami fickle and feminine Nature wanted to take an anticipated revenge on man and his destructive ability. This story links to the one of Banda Aceh and to the area hit by the tragedy of the tsunami although there seems to be no connection between the two. In fact, in Pekambaru, in East Java and Papua the environmental distruction is the work of man, whereas in Banda Aceh it is the work of nature. However, the area of Aceh has been at war with the Indonesian government for years for reasons that, officially, are explained as a desire for indipendence by the inhabitants of that region but which, in reality, are linked to the sure presence of rich petroleum reservoirs. It almost seems as though nature wanted to anticipate what manʼs actions would perform elsewhere.
Text by Chiara Oggioni Tiepolo/Massimo Mastrorillo