Residents of Celukan Bawang Fight Back

It is felt that authorization for the Celukan Bawang II Power Plant project violated some laws.

DENPASAR – Residents living around the Celukan Bawang II Steam Power Plant (PLTU) in Buleleng, Bali, have filed an appeal to the Supreme Court to challenge the issuance of an environmental license for that project by the Bali Provincial Government. This appeal to a higher court was filed after their lawsuit was denied by the Denpasar State Administrative Court (PTUN) and the High State Administrative Court (PTTUN) in Surabaya.

Ni Putu Candra Dewi, a legal representative for the residents of Celukan Bawang, said that filing for an appeal was based on several factors, namely that the object of the dispute has an extensive impact, along with the scarcity of courtroom facts to take into consideration by the PTUN and PTTUN judges when making their verdicts. “For the appeal, we made a table of the small amount of evidence and expert witnesses quoted by the judges,” she said to Tempo, at the end of last week. Aside from the appeal, said Candra, residents are going to hold a major project rejecting the construction of the Celukan Bawang II PLTU, which has a capacity of 2x330 Megawatts (MW).

The lawsuit against the Celukan Bawang II PLTU began with some complaints from residents about pollution from the Celukan Bawang I PLTU, which has been in operation since 2015. Residents figured that if a second power plant went online the air and noise pollution would only get worse. Together with the Indonesian Legal Aid Society Foundation (YLBHI-LBH) of Bali and the environmental activist organization Greenpeace, residents filed their first lawsuit at the Denpasar PTUN on January 24, 2018.

The object of their lawsuit was Decree (SK) Number 660.3/3985/IV-A/DISPMPT regarding an environmental license for Construction of Stage II of the Celukan Bawang I PLTU, which was issued on April 28, 2017, by the then Governor of Bali, I Made Mangku Pastika. The residents urged that this license be revoked.

However, on November 16, 2018, the Bali PTUN rejected this lawsuit, citing that the plaintiffs were not interested parties and the project in question had not created any negative impact. An appeal was filed on December 26 at the PTTUN in Surabaya, but was rejected early this year.

In their lawsuit, the YLBHI of Bali and Greenpeace felt that the process of the making the environmental impact analysis (Amdal) up to the issuing of the environmental license violated three laws, namely: the law on the management of coastlines and small islands, the law ratifying the UN’s climate change working framework, and the law on environmental protection and management (PPLH).

Breaking Many Regulations

In its lawsuit, the environmental activist group Greenpeace pointed out some problems with Decree (SK) of the Governor of Bali Number 660.3/3985/IV-A/DISPMPT regarding the Environmental License for the Construction of Stage II of the Celukan Bawang Steam Power Plant or PLTU (2x330 megawatts).

  1. There was no consultation with the public regarding the planned construction of Stage II of the Celukan Bawang PLTU.
  2. Location authorization is at odds with Law Number 1 of 2014 Regarding the Management of Coastal Areas and Small Islands. The location of the PLTU was not based on the Zoning Plan for Coastal Areas and Small Islands (RZWP3K).
  3. The use of coal is not in line with the Bali Clean and Green Energy road map and Law Number 6 of 1994 Regarding the Ratification of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is felt that coal emissions have the most potential to cause climate change.
  4. The announcement of the request for an environmental license for the Celukan Bawang PLTU II project was made on October 7, 2016, while the actual written request was not given until April 26, 2017.

Another regulation which was potentially violated had to do with public involvement in the environmental impact analysis and licensing process, as is regulated in Regulation of the Minister of the Environment Number 17 of 2012. The government and project contractors did not publicize the process and did not properly involve the community.

Based on Tempo’s investigation, publicizing the project as a condition of submitting an Amdal report from PT PLTU Celukan Bawang as the contractor was not done properly. This fact was discovered by residents on July 16, 2018, at the Celukan Bawang Village Office. There were 75 residents who had gone there to question the efforts to make the PLTU II project known to the public, efforts which they deemed to have been fictive.

As it turned out, the 25 people listed on the attendance sheet has signed it from their respective homes. It was Saharudin, Head of the Punggukan Hamlet, who went house to house to collect resident signatures, which he did upon the instruction of Muhamad Ashari, the Chief of Celukan Bawang Village. “The meeting in the hall was attended by just thirteen people. The rest were met at their homes,” was Saharudin’s admission. However, for all of January up to last week, Tempo could not find Ashari, who Saharudin said had given that instruction.

Another oddity was the announcement of the request for an environmental license for the Celukan Bawang II PLTU, which was made on October 7, 2016, on the website of the Bali Environmental Office. However, the actual file requesting that license was not submitted until April 26, 2017, five months later. When asked for comment, Ida Bagus Made Parwata, Head of the Office of Capital Investment and One-Door Integrated Services for the Province of Bali, said that this was normal because the announcement of the environmental license request on the website was just the initial deliberation of the matter. The file came later after the deliberations were done.

Regarding the matter of the issuance of the environmental license and Amdal being seen as being flawed, Made Teja, Head of Environmental Structuring, Protection and Management of the Environmental Office in Bali Province, said that they carried out the process according to procedure. In fact, he encouraged residents to file a legal challenge if they so desired. “By all means, file a lawsuit if you want.” Putu Singyen, Affairs Manager for PT Celukan Bawang, was reluctant to comment on this matter. He only said that from the outset the commitment was to build a power plant fueled by coal. “This is in line with the original plans.”

MI Made Mangku Pastika, a former Governor of Bali, questioned the intent of the plaintiffs. “Why did the rejection only come at the time of Stage II of the PLTU, for which the environmental impact study had been underway since 2016,” he said. “I know for a fact that Bali needs more electricity.”

Disturbed by Droning and Dangerous Particles

Komarudin can no longer enjoy the silence. Day and night, the Celukan Bawang I Steam Power Plant (PLTU), which is located 70 meters from his house, emits a disturbing droning noise. “Since the PLTU began operating it has become noisy here,” this resident of the Pungkukan Hamlet in Celukan Bawang Village, Buleleng, Bali, recently told Tempo.

Komarudin also complained about air pollution. According to him, since that 3x142 megawatt power plant began operating in 2015, the air in his village has been polluted by coal dust.

The impact of the operation of the Celukan Bawang I PLTU has extended to the waters. Fishermen complain that their catches are getting smaller as a result of the humming of the PLTU’s engines. According to Saifudin, a fisherman on the coast of Celukan Bawang, before the PLTU began generating electricity he operated 24 fishing boats. Now only eight are in use due to smaller catches. “In the past we could catch for three months, now it is only for a day,” he said.

In addition to air pollution, a study done by the environmental group Greenpeace found that the burning of coal to generate electricity produces pollutants, including 2.5 micrometer particles (MPs). These particles can result in asthma, acute respiratory channel infections, and lung cancer.

The Greenpeace study found that the 2.5 MPs at the Celukan Bawang PLTU could reach 5-7 micrograms per cubic millimeter and had spread as far as Jember, East Java. Adila, who is on the staff of Greenpeace Indonesia, said that if calculated along with other pollution such as smoke from vehicles, factories and trash incineration, the concentration of those 2.5 MPs in the areas could exceed the 10 micrograms per cubic meter, the safe limit established by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Made Teja, Head of Environmental Structuring, Protection and Management of the Environmental Office for Bali Province, said that they are going to evaluate environmental quality in Celukan Bawang. “If it exceeds the provisions then it must be rectified,” he said.

I Made Mangku Pastika, the Governor of Bali who authorized construction of the Celukan Bawang I PLTU, said that when he was in office no investors wanted to build a power plant fueled by renewable energy. In the end, Pastika was forced to accept coal-fueled power plant. “If we used gas, the price of electricity would have been high,” he said to Tempo.