Thursday, May 03, 2007


Jakarta Post - November 8, 2005
Yuli Tri Suwarni, Sumedang –
Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific (ASAP)
Indonesia News Digest 42, November 1-8, 2005
Photo: Sobirin, 2004, Proposed Reservoir Area
"Unfavorable conditions in the upstream areas, due to the lack of catchment areas, means that 75 percent of the water flows directly into the sea. Why don't we restore the upstream areas to prevent floods during rainy season and drought in the dry season," said Sobirin.

Darya still tends to his sheep and crops on his land located along the edge of a slope which is supposed to become part of dam in the Jatigede area of Sumedang regency, West Java.

The 70-year-old man has never considered moving from the place, despite with the government's plan to start constructing the Jatigede dam next year. Moreover, the old farmer does not even know how much the government intends to pay him for his one- hectare farm.

The government did acquire half of his land, then owned by Darya's father, in 1970. "At that time, the government had acquired half of the land owned by my father at Rp 400 (four US cents) per square meter in 1970," he said.
Under the plan, the reservoir that will be created by the dam is expected to hold nearly 1 billion cubic meters of water.

The manager of the project, Jaja Somantri Widjaja acknowledged that there were still 3,900 families such as Darya who have yet to be compensated, especially in the areas near the lower parts of the prospective reservoir.

Although more than 1,000 families have received compensation for their land and moved to other places, some have actually moved back on to the land that the government already paid them for, due to the unsure realization of the project.

"The process of land acquisition is delicate, because many of them have refused to sell their land. But we have a new paradigm; compensating them according to the current price of land in the area," said Jaja.

Land acquisition has long been a problem since the initiation of the project during former president Soekarno's era in 1963. The government was prompted to construct the reservoir due to water shortages faced by thousands of farmers within the rice-growing areas of the north coast of the province during the drought.

Particularly in places like Indramayu, Cirebon, Majalengka and Sumedang regencies.
Based on available statistics, rice plantation areas would increase from 90 million hectares to 130 million hectares if the project is completed.

Moreover, the available water from the reservoir can add to the number of planting seasons, from one or two times a year, to three times annually. The state electricity company PLN also has plans to install a turbine in the dam, which can generate around 175 megawatts of power.

The project's activities once again made the news a few months ago when hundreds of construction workers finished building a block of houses for project officials and the site office in Jatigede village. However, the problem of land acquisition still remains.

The government, through the Ministry of Public Works, has decided to earmark Rp 120 billion in 2006 to start the initial stage of the project by constructing an 800-meter long aqueduct that will be 10 meters wide.
However, residents grouped in the Jatigede Awareness Forum (FPJ) have still refused to sell their land.

FPJ leader, Taryana, estimated that less than 10 percent of local residents living in the areas that would subsequently be submerged in water could afford to relocate from the area because of the meager amount of compensation. He added that it would not enable them to buy land in other areas.

"Previously, a tumbak (14 square meters) of land was only worth Rp 100,000. Now with the price of land reaching an average of Rp 600,000 per tumbak, the government should compensate residents at a margin based on the current price," said Taryana.
Moreover, Sumedang farmers argue that the reservoir would not be of much benefit to them because its water would flow to other areas.

Meanwhile, Sumedang Regent Don Murdono said the government could not compensate them for the land, which had already been sold by residents years ago, since it had been officially bought by the government.

"Let's look to the future. The project will also benefit Sumedang residents. Besides serving as a clean water source for the local tap water company, it can also be developed into a recreational area," said Don.

Separately, the Indonesian Historical Society (MSI) stated there were 25 historical sites threatened by the reservoir, including the Leuwi, Nangewer, Pasir Limus, Nangkod and Muhara historical sites located in five districts.

Head of the West Java chapter of MSI, Nina Lubis, said the sites had strong historical value for the Sundanese people since they were the origins of the kingdoms in West Java previously, such as the Tembang Agung kingdom; the derivation of the Sumedang Larang kingdom in the 9th century.
"To lose those sites would mean another missing link to the Sundanese history," Nina said.

The Sundanese Environmental Resources Promotion Observation Council (DPKLTS) estimates the project will displace 41,000 people, submerge around 1,200 hectares of forest, and Rp 1 trillion worth of rice and tobacco fields on 3,100 hectares.
"More importantly, thousands of plant and animal species will become extinct," claimed Sobirin of DPKLTS.

Instead of going on with the construction, he argued that the government should revitalize the role of the rivers in the Cimanuk area, which have been a source of water for rice fields in West Java's north coast area for many decades.

"Unfavorable conditions in the upstream areas, due to the lack of catchment areas, means that 75 percent of the water flows directly into the sea. Why don't we restore the upstream areas to prevent floods during rainy season and drought in the dry season," said Sobirin.

However, regardless of the protestations, the government seems undeterred."Like it or not, the government is determined to finish this project. Only time will tell," said Jaja.

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