Friends of the Earth Japan, together with other environmental NGOs submitted a letter to JBIC regarding the coal-fired power plant projectin Batang Regency, Central Java, Indonesia. Because there has been a number of problems reported from local citizens especially fishermen, JBIC should find a fundamental solution to the damage on the marine ecosystem and the fishery, and suspend its loan disbursement until they do so. The below is the letter we submitted.
(The original letter is written in Japanese)
Mr. Tadashi Maeda
Governor, Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC)
Letter to Demand JBIC Find a Fundamental Solution to the Damage on the Marine Ecosystem and the Fishery and Suspend its Loan Disbursement for the Project
Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES)
In fact, the current situation on the ground proves that the 7 measures did not eliminate the impacts, and therefore we are submitting this letter to explain the details of the local situation, and to demand again that JBIC suspend its loan disbursement to the project until the fundamental solution is achieved. What we mean by solution here is not a solution by compensation, but to restore the local sea to how it used to be before the construction began.
First of all, we will inform you about the current situation on the ground with your 7 measures, which are:
(1) Holding socialization sessions on compensation
(2) Speeding up the compensation process
(3) Monitoring the compensation process
(4) Having local fishermen on the barges for dredging to check the procedure
(5) Making the fuel consumption data of the barges for dredging publicly accessible
(6) Making the GPS data of the barges for dredging publicly accessible
(7) Setting up a help desk in East Roban
As explained in the last letter, when we had our field research at the end of April, at least the fishermen group in East Roban clearly showed their opposing stance in the measures stating that compensation doe not lead to a solution of the problems, and accordingly is not accepting measure (1), (2), (3) and (7). Especially regarding measure (1), as you already know, the project proponent, BPI attempted to have a socialization session on offshore activities in Sengong Village on March 22, 2019, but failed. The fishermen group held up signs with anti-project messages, “We protest the project, nothing can replace our ocean” for example, and left the place after the first few minutes of the session.
About measure (4), 4 fishermen from West Roban seem to have been on the barge for dredging but the fishermen group in East Roban has not agreed with the measure and therefore has not been on it. About measure (5) and (6), according to the fishermen group in East Roban, such data has not been made available to the public.
Furthermore, we conducted simple research again together with the East Roban youth fishermen group on the damage to the local fishermen from illegal dredging, and so far there have been at least 5 different cases (we have not been able to review all the data yet) where fishermen have been affected in the ways below (for more details please refer to attachment 1 and 2);
• During about the 4 month period from when the youth fishermen group conducted their research on January 13, 2019 until the beginning of May, 18 fishing nets were broken or not able to be collected. The total cost for repairing and the purchase of new nets is 17,520,000 IDR (about 140,000 JPY).
• During about the 1 month period from the project proponent (BPI) held a socialization session on March 22, 2019 until the beginning of May, 12 fishing nets (out of the 18 mentioned above) were broken or not able to be collected. The total cost for repairing and the purchase of new nets is 13,270,000 IDR (about 106,000 JPY).
The important point for JBIC to note here is that the reason the local fishermen group shows all these numbers is not to receive compensation, but to prove the serious damage and problems that they have been facing.
In addition, the fact that there are still damage and problems when the 7 measures are already put in practice and the dredged soil is (possibly) not dumped illegally indicates the possibility that the actual cause of all the continuing damage and problems is the dredged soil that was dumped illegally in the past. If we take the words of the local fishermen group, “the dredged soil that was dumped illegally in the past goes around in the ocean with currents so we cannot expect where it is. It is like setting up a net not knowing where it is and hitting a bomb.” Because of this the local fishermen are still deeply struggling.
Considering these situations, even if the 7 measures are continued to take place, we cannot deny the possibility that the local fishermen will continue to face severe damage and problems after April of 2020 when the dredging and dumping process is expected to complete, or even after completion of the plant construction for this project. It is also clear that providing compensation every time does not provide a fundamental solution.
Fishery in Batang has been passed down from generation to generation. It is not okay to leave the current situation as it is or the next generations will also be severely affected. As the local fishermen group has been demanding, we believe that what is most needed to eliminate the continued environmental as well as social impacts is for the project proponent to make the local ocean as it was before the start of construction.
Thus, we continue to demand the followings:
1. Due to illegal dumping of dredged soil in the past for the project, serious impacts on the local fishery may continue. Therefore JBIC should suspend the loan disbursement for the project until JBIC ensures that BPI or JBIC;
a. Identifies the fundamental cause of this problem through the investigation suggested in 2.
b. Proposes different measures to solve the fundamental problems or to restore the local sea condition
c. Implements the new measures and solves the problems effectively.
In JBIC’s guidelines it is stated, “If the response of the project proponent is inappropriate, JBIC may consider taking its own actions in accordance with the loan agreement, including the suspension of the disbursement.” As we have been pointing out, it has been already 2.5 years since the damage and the problems to the local fishery became noticeable, but no effective measures were taken. JBIC should take this seriously and act firmly based on its own guidelines.
2. While the project proponent claims that they have been acting upon careful consideration for social and environmental impacts, the local fishermen group reports that there has been serious damage to the fishing nets. Therefore JBIC should investigate where the soil that gets caught in the nets comes from, and find out a fundamental solution to the problems. Also, JBIC should investigate the impacts of the construction on the local fishermen (including the limitation of fishing area and of route to the fishing area, and the catch quantity) and the marine ecosystem (including coral reefs), and examine and identify the causes of them.
Under the monitoring section of the guidelines, it is written, “When necessary, JBIC may also conduct its own investigations.” Taking the damage and the problems that the local fishermen have been facing for 2.5 years into account, JBIC should follow its own guidelines and conduct its own investigations.
3. JBIC should fulfill its accountability to the local fishermen about the results of the investigations into the impacts on the local fishery and the marine ecosystem. Moreover, JBIC should make sure that appropriate participation of local residents is ensured in the process of establishing new measures, implementing them as well as monitoring them, and that such measures may lead to an effective solution.
Friends of the Earth Japan
1-21-9 Komone, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo
Cc: Minister of Finance Mr. Taro Aso