SURALAYA, Banten: Villagers in the Indonesian district of Suralaya, Banten province, have for over 35 years lived close to an enormous coal-fired power station.
The Suralaya coal power plant is important as it provides electrical energy not solely to Banten province but in addition to different elements of Java island as properly as Bali. It produces about 3,750 TWh of electrical energy per 12 months.
Apart from the electrical energy, it additionally produces black smoke which is seen even on a cloudy day when CNA visited earlier this month.
Born and raised simply metres away from the power plant, 72-year-old Saniman claimed that his well being began to deteriorate after the power plant began to function in 1985.
“I have breathing problems. My heart and lungs are not the best,” he informed CNA.
Mr Saniman, who goes by one identify, was a farmer however as his well being deteriorated over time, he grew to become a greens reseller.
He has lengthy suspected that the smoke produced by the coal-fired power station, which till not too long ago was labeled as hazardous waste, is the principle reason behind his well being points since he’s not a smoker.
But regardless of complaining to the village head with the opposite villagers who even have comparable complaints, he mentioned nothing has modified over time.
In February, President Joko Widodo signed a regulation that delisted fly ash and backside ash from power crops, typically referred to as coal waste, from a listing of hazardous waste.
The regulation is a spinoff of the country’s omnibus law which was handed final 12 months, meant to create new jobs and investments.
The transfer sparked anger amongst environmentalists who’ve lengthy argued that coal power crops are damaging to the surroundings as properly as the well being of people that stay close by.
However, the authorities mentioned that such ash reveals no hazardous traits, whereas legal guidelines nonetheless exist to control how these waste needs to be dealt with.
Indonesia is the world’s high coal producer and greater than half of its power is produced from coal power crops which emit carbon dioxide and are believed to be the supply of greenhouse gases that trigger local weather change.
Although Indonesia has ratified the Paris settlement on local weather change and pledged to scale back at the very least 29 per cent of its carbon emissions by 2030, the federal government says its power combine will nonetheless be reliant on coal in the following few years.
RESPIRATORY ISSUES FACED BY NEARBY RESIDENTS
Mr Merah Johansyah, the coordinator of Mining Advocacy Network JATAM, has condemned the brand new regulation.
“Fly ash and bottom ash are very dangerous to people’s health as well as the ecosystem and our environment,” mentioned Mr Johansyah.
He famous that even earlier than the brand new regulation was handed, fly ash and backside ash have been dealt with “recklessly”. With them being reclassified as non-hazardous waste, he expects issues to worsen.
He cited at the very least two instances the place coal-fired power stations have impacted folks’s well being negatively and in addition polluted the air and water close by.
“People living nearby have witnessed fly ash and bottom ash being discarded and piled, forming mountains (of waste) around the coal-fired power stations as happened in East Kalimantan, which is only 300m from residential areas.
“They were neglected and during the dry season, if the weather is hot and the wind is strong, these dust particles scatter and fly all the way to people’s homes … polluting settlements and endangering the health of residents,” mentioned Mr Johansyah.
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He famous that in Kutai Kartanegara, East Kalimantan, those that stay close to a coal-fired power plant have each day complaints of respiratory ailments.
“From coughing, shortness of breath, headaches and various disorders in the respiratory infection category. Likewise in another case, outside East Kalimantan in Palu which is also very close to residential areas, it has even claimed lives.
“There are 14 residents who have died in the last three years due to black lung and cancer, including nasopharyngeal cancer,” Mr Johansyah said.
According to Mr Fajri Fadhillah, head of the air pollution and environmental harm management division of the Indonesian Centre for Environmental Law (ICEL), the principle distinction between dealing with hazardous and non-hazardous waste is the latter will be dealt with on the producer’s premises.
“The waste doesn’t need to be exported to a third party’s place, so it is cost-efficient … If it is non-hazardous waste, it can be reused immediately,” he said.
On the other hand, hazardous waste must be sampled and tested before it can be reused, Mr Fadhillah explained.
Back in Suralaya, Banten, CNA spoke to Mr Saniman’s cousin who lives further away, about 1km. He too has respiratory complaints.
“I am a farmer. In the past, I had no disease. Since the coal-fired power plant existed, there are now many diseases,” said Mr Sanudin, who goes by one name.
He has been a smoker for many years, but insisted that his health issues were brought about by the power plant.
The 69-year-old mentioned that even his crops now die simply.
“Never mind humans, even bananas die due to the project (coal-fired power plant). If I cough, sometimes the ash comes out … The colour is black.
“The banana leaves are also black, the coal ash lands on the banana and mango leaves, especially if the wind is strong,” he said.
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An epidemiologist from the University of Indonesia Pandu Riono said coal-fired power plants in many countries produce pollution and this will impact the respiratory health of people living nearby.
“The question is what is the definition of dangerous? So far dangerous means it disrupts the respiratory function …. If we correlate it with death, one will not immediately die but the respiratory function will decrease and the person may be susceptible to other diseases.
“Therefore, if there are assumptions that activities or the waste produced by coal-fired power plants are not dangerous, I want proof,” Mr Riono said.
FLY ASH AND BOTTOM ASH SHOW NO HAZARDOUS CHARACTERISTICS: MINISTRY
Ms Rosa Vivien Ratnawati, the director-general of waste and hazardous and toxic materials management who is with the environment and forestry ministry said there are sound reasons for the recent policy decision.
She explained that the government delisted fly ash and bottom ash as hazardous waste because coal-fired power plants use temperatures as high as 800 degrees Celsius, which leads to complete combustion. The ash, therefore, does not show characteristics of hazardous waste such as being flammable, explosive, reactive to cyanide and sulfide or corrosive.
Mdm Ratnawati said the authorities have assessed fly ash and bottom waste of 19 coal-fired power plants. It was found that there are no parameters that exceed the toxicity reference value as stated in a 2018 minister of manpower regulation.
“Even though it is declared non-hazardous waste, non-hazardous waste producers still have the obligation to comply with the standards and technical requirements stipulated and contained in the environmental document approval,” she identified.
She added that the fly ash and backside ash can subsequently be used as a constructing materials for cement substitution, roads and underground mines amongst others.
In line with this, the director-general of minerals and coal of the ministry of power and mineral sources Ridwan Jamaludin mentioned that in the longer term, fly ash and backside ash will likely be transformed into merchandise which can be environmentally pleasant.
“We see it as a change in governance, not just changing from hazardous waste, but what we see is what it can be used for,” mentioned Mr Jamaludin.
The director-general of electrical energy of the ministry of power and mineral sources Rida Mulyana mentioned different international locations additionally don’t classify fly ash and backside ash as being hazardous.
These embrace Australia, Canada, Japan, Russia, South Africa and the United States. Key locations the place Indonesia exports its coal to, together with China, India and South Korea additionally don’t regard such ash as being hazardous, he mentioned.
LAWS STILL EXIST TO REGULATE COAL WASTE
The new regulation happened after 17 business associations lobbied the federal government final 12 months to take away fly ash and backside ash as hazardous waste.
Mdm Liana Bratasida, who’s the director government of the pulp and paper business affiliation (APKI) and acts as the coordinator among the many associations associated to the fly ash and backside ash situation, informed CNA that they made the request primarily based on their research.
“We are not asking the government without any basis. We asked based on comparisons with other countries,” she mentioned.
“We have tested the use of fly ash and bottom ash for road paving. In the past, when it was still considered hazardous waste, it had to go through a very long process.
“All the research have thought-about the prices and advantages, not solely social, environmental, however financial too. The three concerns are seen in a balanced approach, not simply heavy on the economic system, not simply heavy on the surroundings,” she identified.
Mdm Bratasida pressured that regardless that the coal waste from power crops is not labeled as hazardous waste, it doesn’t imply that the business isn’t being monitored.
It nonetheless has to report back to the federal government what it’s doing with its waste and handle it as stipulated in ministerial laws, she mentioned.
Others stay sceptical.
Mr Fadhillah of ICEL mentioned a number of questions nonetheless stay. For occasion, he questioned if the 19 coal-fired power crops surveyed by the federal government are consultant of all coal-fired power stations all through Indonesia, as the fly ash and backside ash produced rely upon the kind of coal being burnt, the kind of combustion expertise and the air air pollution management expertise used in the power crops.
Thus, he proposed that the delisting of such ash as being hazardous waste ought to greatest be assessed on a case by case foundation, as Indonesia has about 40 coal-fired power crops.
“In my opinion, it should be made case-specific. If there is a business person who wants fly ash and bottom ash of a coal-fired power station to be declassified in his area, he can submit a request to the ministry of environment. And there is room for people to participate, whether they object or agree,” mentioned Mr Fadhillah.
Mr Sanudin in Banten, nonetheless, was much less sanguine.
“I’m only a idiot. Not sturdy sufficient to take a stance as a result of I’m just one particular person, except the entire village doesn’t settle for the (waste of the) power plant. Only we perceive that it causes ailments.”