After four years on, Indonesia still facing problems with mudflow disaster

17:47, May 31, 2010      

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Indonesian government is still facing problems on how to stop and remove the massive mud that continues to spew from under the earth in Sidoarjo regency East Java since it was initially emerged at the latest four years ago.

Government has spent more than 4 trillion rupiah (more than 435 million U.S. dollars) to finance the mitigation efforts to deal with the impact of mudflow that has submerged a number of villages in the regency, forced hundreds of people living in those villages to live in makeshift tents.

The mudflow, which now has mounted up to 12 million metric tons, covers 640 hectares of area in the regency, has significantly disrupted the transportation system that paralyzed the access to east side of Java island.

Some of the funds allocated by the central government were used to finance the construction of dams to prevent the mudflow from expanding to more areas and to build alternative roads to secure the access in the province.

Besides that, government also built houses for the victims whose houses submerged by the mud. However, the houses were only provided for the disaster victims who were able to show the certification to their houses.

It made those who failed to show their house certificates still living in makeshift tents in the past four years.

Securing the education for the children in the disaster area is another issue faced by the government at the moment. Government is yet to built proper schools for the school-aged victims. Education for those ill-fated children is now organized by volunteers in coordination with regional and central government.

The disaster occurred in an operation mishap conducted by PT Lapindo Brantas when it tried to explore oil deposit in the area. The mishap led to the spew of mud from high-pressure earth layer. According to Ahmad Zulkarnain, the spokesperson of Sidoarjo Mudflow Mitigation Agency (BPLS), there were a total of 180 mud spew locations in which 81 of them are still active.

"The mud spewing in Sidoarjo is a symptom of an emergence of mud mountain phenomenon. It can be identified from the spewing of mud, gas and water in the location," Ahmad said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has declared the huge mud- covered area as a geological-tourist destination during his visit in the area recently. Government will build several observation facilities on the dams. With such a declaration, people living in surrounding area, including the disaster's victims, are expected to take the benefit from it.

Reports said that the central government would gradually allocate funds up to 11 trillion rupiah (about 1.2 billion U.S. dollars) to finance transportation infrastructure projects in those areas, provide compensation for the disaster's victims.

Meanwhile, in a bid to commemorate four years of the disaster, victims who are evicted from their own houses by the mudflow, staged a play depicting the government's lack of actions to provide compensation to the victims. They urged the government to pay more attention in providing houses and securing education for their children.



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