Monday, August 09, 2004

Government to go ahead with Jatigede dam project

Source: The Jakarta Post

Yuli Tri Suwarni and Nana Rukmana, Bandung/Indramayu

Despite being controversial, the government will go ahead with plans to build Jatigede dam. Sumedang regent Don Murdono has revealed that construction of the large, Rp 2.1 trillion (US$ 221 million) dam will commence in the near future, despite mounting protests.

"There has been debate among the public. The government believes that construction of the dam will benefit the majority, so we will move ahead with it," said Murdono recently.

The statement came as public controversy over the planned construction of the dam reached a peak. Rallies by different groups have been held over the course of two weeks, with one camp supporting the dam, and the other opposed to it. The first was spearheaded by the Joint Communique of Jatigede Community, while the second was represented by the Alliance of Agricultural Reform and Jatigede People's Communication Forum (KFKR).

KFKR chairman Kusnadi, who opposes the dam, said that its construction would benefit only farmers from other regencies, while it would cause farmers in Sumedang, particularly Jatigede, to incur losses.

He claimed that Jatigede farmers would lose 2,000 hectares of land; in addition, the dam would claim a further 1,200 hectares of land and forest belonging to state forestry company PT Perhutani.

The losses have been a cause of concern for the farmers, as their land is fertile, said Kusnadi. Jatigede farmers could harvest rice three times per year and each hectare produced five tons to eight tons of rice per harvest.

The protest by those in favor of the dam has been supported by Jakarta-based non-governmental organizations, including the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi).

This camp has urged the government to stick to its plan to build the high-profile dam as soon as possible.

Joint Communique of Jatigede Community coordinator Irfan Yudi said construction of the dam would benefit some 100,000 hectares of paddy field along the Java coast, particularly in West Java province.

He said that if the dam were built in the province, it would address the continual problems of drought and flooding in West Java, particularly in Sumedang regency.

Meanwhile, Murdono claimed, in general, Jatigede farmers and residents agreed with the plan to construct the dam. They were simply demanding that the government pay them more in compensation for the loss of their land, he said. The residents demanded the government pay them Rp 1.1 million (US$ 115.8) per 14 hectares, but the government insisted on only Rp 900,000.

"If this problem can be overcome, the government could soon proceed with construction of the dam," said Murdono.

Of the 4,890 hectares due to be flooded by the proposed reservoir, only about 1,000 hectares remain to be acquired by the government. The dam is targeted to trap 800 million cubic meters of water and will cost the state Rp 600 billion. It is estimated to be able to irrigate 97,000 hectares of paddy field, not only in Sumedang regency, but also in the neighboring regencies of Indramayu, Cirebon and elsewhere.