10/26/2007, 00.00
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Mud flow caused by the Lapindo Brantas Co. to swallow up Renokenongo village

by Mathias Hariyadi
Since May 2006 hot mud is flowing out of a well, breaching the dike built to contain it. Several villages have already been swamped displacing thousands of people. The Lapindo Brantas Co, which is responsible for the disaster, is refusing to pay full compensation to those who lost jobs and homes.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Only a few days are left before the village of Renokenongo, in Porong Subdistrict (Sidoarjo Regency), is flooded by a mudflow flowing from an exploration well drilled by the Lapindo Brantas Oil and Gas Company. When the mud outflow broke a dike built some 20 metres from the village to contain the ongoing eruption, the Sidoarjo Mud Handling Agency decided to let it flood the village and its surrounding 50 hectare (120 acres) area in order to save nearby villages and fields.

Since May 2006 the mud flow has inundated the villages of Siring, Jatirejo and Kedungbendo, wiping out homes and jobs for more than 10,000 people and destroying an area of more than 625 hectares (1550 acres), i.e. the equivalent of 600 soccer fields, and anything that was on it: industrial plants and workshops, roads and railway lines. It has also breached the containment dike built to hold back the mud over a distance of more than 19 kilometres causing damages running into the billions of dollars.

Residents have resigned themselves to their losses but complain that Lapindo Brantas, the company responsible for the ill-planned drilling, only paid out a portion of the compensation it promised.

The firm belongs to an important Indonesian entrepreneur,  Aburizal “Ical” Bakrie, who is also Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare in the current Indonesian government , and a close ally of Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla, chairman of the Golkar Party.

Sumaryo, a local farmer and father of seven, complains that mudflow victims in Renokenongo “only got 20 per cent of the total compensation package, whilst compensation for the rest is still a big question.”

Sumaryo used to live in Jatirejo, near the well that is spewing mud, but was forced to move to Renokenongo in November 2006. He was forced out from there last month and is looking for a new place to shelter his family. “But the 20 per cent received in compensation is not good enough to buy land and a house, even a small one.”

Making matters worse, it appears that neither the company nor the government are willing to pay the remaining 80 per cent in compensation.

Analysts note that the political parties and companies involved in the issue are more into discussing the problem and its impact than finding solutions that can help the victims. Sadly, whilst they talk the sea of mud is on the verge of swallowing up Renokenongo’s 50 hectares.

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