Ocean of mud in Porong to be channeled into Java Sea
by Mathias Hariyadi
A pipeline stretching for dozens of kilometers is planned to channel the more than 100,000 cubic meters of mud that spill out every day. The controversy continues over the lack of adequate aid for the more than 50,000 displaced people, many of whom have been left in temporary shelters, and without means of support.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - A conduit to channel the boiling mud to the Java Sea, about 25 kilometers from the site of the disaster. This is the idea of the government, after the failure of attempts to stop the emergence of the mud from below Porong, and to keep it from submerging fields, homes, and roads.

The proposal was advanced in 2007, but then abandoned because of the protests of environmentalists and residents, concerned over the possible damage to ocean life. But since May of 2006, the mud has continued to emerge at a rate of 100,000 cubic meters per day, and has already forced more than 50,000 people to flee. The idea was discussed in a closed-door meeting in Jakarta, between the minister of public assistance, local and environmental officials, and executives of Lapindo Brantas, the company that dug the borehole from which the mud erupted.

According to unofficial information, the pipeline will be 2 meters in diameter and at least 14.6 kilometers long, from Porong to a location that has not yet been revealed. The project is believed to have received agreement from study groups, in regard to its environmental impact as well.

This would avoid "channelling the mudflow into a local river", explains Rasio Ridho Sani, a top official at the environment ministry, which had also been proposed, but would have been more risky for the environment, in part because the lava could overflow the rivers of the area (the Porong and Surabaya rivers) and invade the surrounding areas, including the districts of Sidoarjo, Mojokerto, and Pasuruan, as well as the provincial capital of Surabaya.

Meanwhile, Vice President Jusuf Kalla says "the government has given up in terms of efforts to stop the mudflow, but will never give up when it comes to taking care of the people" affected by the disaster. But the refugees complain that they have not yet received adequate compensation, and are often forced to live in temporary shelters, with little financial assistance. Kalla is known for his close business relationships, and for his long-standing friendship and political alliance with the minister for social affairs, Aburizal “Ical” Bakrie, considered the richest man in the country. Bakrie's family, which is believed to control Lapindo Brantas, is accused of digging the borehole without appropriate measures to block the mud eruption. But the company defends itself, saying that the disaster is due to normal tectonic activity. The government has ordered the company to pay 3.8 trillion rupees (about 284 million euros) to the victims, and to cover all of the damages.