Bright Sumatra Network for Clean Energy when holding a webinar with the theme “Why does the 3.7 Gigawatt coal-fired power plant in Sumatra have to be shut down”. Wednesday, 23 November 2022. Photo/Doc: Canopy
Interactive News – The story of the misery in the coal-fired Steam Power Plant (PLTU) on the island of Sumatra is a daily phenomenon. Evicted villages, loss of livelihoods, illness, loss of homes to social conflicts adorn the information media. This story is perfected by the high intensity of both latent and manifest conflicts.
This was revealed in a webinar with the theme “Why does the 3.7 Gigawatt coal-fired power plant in Sumatra have to be turned off” which was held by the Bright Sumatra Network for Clean Energy, a combination of 18 non-governmental organizations on the island of Sumatra which urged the government to immediately stop using fossil energy from coal and accelerate the transition to renewable energy on Wednesday, November 23, 2022.
Zaidun Abdi from the representative of the Aceh Environmental Defenders Association (P2LH), stated that the existence of the Nagan Raya coal-fired power plant did not have a significant effect on economic growth. What the people accept is the destruction of the people’s economic foundations.
Pangkalan Susu fishermen in North Sumatra have also experienced a decline in income of up to 70 percent since the PLTU Pangkalan Susu was operational. Likewise, fishermen in the Siak River, Riau and Bengkulu, also lost their fish due to coal exploitation.
Dewi Purnama, a lecturer at the Department of Marine Affairs at the University of Bengkulu, emphasized that based on research results, the population of female sea turtles in the waters has decreased by 20% due to climate change. This information is actually enough to give us information that there has been a decline in the population of marine biota due to the climate crisis.
The story of economic damage is not only in the marine sector, farmers have also experienced a decline in agricultural output.
Sumiati Surbakti, Director of Srikandi Lestari, North Sumatra, stated that farmers around the Pangkalan Susu PLTU have experienced a decline in agricultural yields of more than 50%, from previously getting an average of 300 kg/chain, now getting half of it is very difficult.
A similar story also occurred in Lahat, South Sumatra, where farmers who used to get more than 100 sacks of rice per plot, now only get no more than 30 sacks.
Data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for 2021 states that around 828 million people are facing hunger, whose conditions are exacerbated by the climate crisis. Data from the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) states that 115 medium and small islands in Indonesia are at risk of disappearing or sinking due to rising sea levels.
Meanwhile, data processed by Kanopi Hijau Indonesia from various sources stated that 27,175 hectares of land on Sumatra Island had disappeared in the last three years.
The burning of fossil coal has also poisoned the air that humans breathe where a study published by the Lancet, an international medical journal, states that air pollution causes 6.7 million deaths in 2019.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that at least 7 million people experience premature death per year, including around 600,000 children under the age of 15 due to air pollution. This number does not take into account the millions who suffer from chronic diseases related to air pollution.
The health suffering from the effects of the climate crisis was explained in a straightforward manner by Prof. Budi Haryanto, a professor at the University of Indonesia who was the responder in this webinar.
Prof. Budi said that in 2018 in research at 88 coal-fired power plants around the world with the treatment of public health research living 50 km, 100 kilometers, to 1,000 kilometers from the power plant found residents exposed to deadly diseases and predominately suffering from diseases related to impaired lung function.
“The dominant lung function disorders such as lung cancer, asthma and pneumonia and even the heart, that’s what was found,” he said.
Research in 18 PLTU countries in the Balkan region also found the spread of SO2 and other pollutant compounds to Italy even though they had crossed the sea. The research also found that after the destruction of the coal power plant, pollution decreased drastically and pollution-related diseases decreased significantly.
From this explanation, the field facts suffered by residents who live around the coal power plant show that the disease that is endemic is a disease that attacks the respiratory and skin.
At the Pangkalan Susu North Sumatra PLTU site in 2021, 2,547 people were recorded as suffering from ISPA and 738 people were suffering from chronic lung disease.
Residents of Sijantang Koto Sawah Lunto, West Sumatra, experienced a similar situation as explained by the Director of LBH Padang, Indira Suryani, who said that ISPA was the most common disease suffered by residents of Talawi District with the number of sufferers reaching 5,000 people in 2011-2017 and still included in the 5 most common diseases in 2011-2017. 2019 to 2021.
Yesi Sepriani, a representative from the Lantern Post, Bengkulu, revealed that 39 residents of Sepang Bay had skin diseases that were difficult to heal.
The same story also occurred around the Pangkalan Susu PLTU with the number of sufferers of skin diseases totaling 60 people while respiratory diseases were suffered by residents around the Ombilin and Pangkalan Susu PLTUs.
The environmental damage was explained from Riau by the Director of LBH Pekanbaru Andi Wijaya who explained the pollution conditions of the Siak River which is still the source of PDAM water for Pekanbaru City residents.
In Jambi, 112 people died on the streets due to accidents which were exacerbated by the passing of coal transport trucks. Even the Muaro Jambi cultural heritage site is currently surrounded by a stockpile or coal stockpiling point.
In the Lampung region, residents of the three regencies have to receive coal dust every day from coal transport brought from South Sumatra to Lampung by train.
Meanwhile, Professor Yusmar Yusuf from the University of Riau stated that this social problem is a real form of over-exploitation of nature through the mine mouth coal power plant.
He said the exploitation of coal mines has eliminated habitats in the mining environment in the form of forests or areas where there are no settlements. He considered that currently Sumatra is becoming fragile because of the extractive economic beating.
“This condition makes the energy transition not an option but a necessity that cannot be postponed for too long,” he said.
On the other hand, the island of Sumatra currently has an excess of almost 2,000 Megawatts (MW) of electrical power, so it is questionable that the addition of new PLTUs continues to be encouraged, especially in the South Sumatra region.
Boni Bangun from Clean Sumsel said that in South Sumatra Province alone there is currently an excess of 1,300 MW of electricity, but the government continues to add new coal-fired power plants such as PLTU Sumsel 1 and PLTU Sumsel 8.
“We urge the government to stop the construction of PLTU Sumsel 1 and Sumsel 8 because Sumatra has excess power of 2,000 MW and South Sumatra alone has excess power of 1,300 MW,” he said.
Ali Akbar from Kanopi Hijau Indonesia said that the Sumatra report was carried out in response to the state’s initiative to retire coal power plants in Indonesia early.
The G20 meeting that was just held in Bali gave some hope for an end to the use of coal in Indonesia.
“We want Sumatra to be free from coal dirty energy. The story of the people’s misery that has been described is sufficient to become the basis for the state to be right in making decisions. The country’s plan to stop using coal by 2060 is too late,” said Ali.
Editor: Alfridho Ade Permana