Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Controversy is exploding after public assistance minister Djoko Kirmanto said yesterday, that, perhaps, "it is not possible to stop the eruption of mud" that for years has gradually been submerging property and homes in Porong, in eastern Java.
The observation is significant in part because it follows the meeting with representatives of parliament and of the Lapindo Brantas Mudflow Crisis Centre. Not to mention the fact that it echoes the complaints of the company Lapindo Brantas over the of large amounts of money it has spent in the fruitless attempt to stop the boiling mud from issuing from the borehole dug by the firm. General Manager Imam Agustino observes that the company has spent "more than a billion dollars", "most recently throwing thousands of bags of cement into the hole, to no effect". The company now wants to stop its efforts. It has also proposed digging a tunnel to channel the mud into the Porong river, which would send it into the Java Sea, but this has caused serious protests among fish ranchers in the area, who are concerned about its effects on their business.
Many hold the company responsible for the disaster, because it dug its deep borehole without taking the required precautions, but the company, which has political support, has always replied that it is a natural phenomenon and no one is responsible for it.
Kirmanto has emphasized the significant economic costs. The sea of mud has covered the Surabaya-Malang highway, and the government has still not identified another place to build a new highway. And "there are not enough funds for the new road, nor to compensate the residents who have had to leave their homes, property, work". The main railway connecting the provincial capital of Surabaya with Malang, its second-largest city, has also been inundated.
Win Hendrarso, head of the district of Sidoarjo, has replied to the minister that "the government must not be skeptical, but must prepare a long-term plan for the relocation" of the displaced.
Abdullah Azwar Anas of the National Awakening Party insists that "the effort to resolve the crisis must continue", in part because "the area of the mudflow is now widening".
Last week, local experts warned that the advance of the mud is speeding up, and it is now close to the villages of Jatirejo, Mindi, and Siring Barat, and other populated areas.