Karst is a special type of geological landscape that is formed by the dissolution of soluble rocks, including limestone and dolomite. Karst regions contain aquifers that are capable of providing large supplies of water, and more than 25 percent of the world’s population either lives on or obtains its water from these aquifers.
However, due to the relatively rapid rate of water flow and the lack of a natural filtration system, karst systems are vulnerable to ground water pollution which puts local drinking water supplies at risk of being contaminated.
And that is the background to an ongoing community protest which in terms of the commitment, imagination, political shenanigans and tragedy has captured the interest and support of a very wide section of Indonesia’s population.
It is truly a ‘Them versus Us’ scenario, and this cement factory is ‘Them’.
Pabrik Semen Rembang
Kendeng, in the Central Java regency of Rembeng, is in a karst region whose waters have been used by farmers for many generations. In June 2014 PT Semen Indonesia began the construction of a cement plant in Rembang: limestone in karst is a key ingredient of cement. However, PT Semen had yet to produce a ‘strategic environmental assessment’ (KLHS), a legal necessity.
The farmers, therefore sought an injunction calling for a halt to construction, and to publicise their case the farmers held their novel protest of encasing their feet in cement and ‘camping’ in front of the Presidential Palace in Jakarta.
In October last year , the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the farmers and ordered Semen Indonesia to cease its activities, as did President Jokowi who ordered Rembang’s cement factory to cease operations until the KLHS report was complete. Having revoked the permit on January 16th, Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo then issued a new environmental permit on February 23rd, Yet the KLHS is still not complete, and so the protest resumed.
As the Post says, while the Supreme Court ruling is final and binding, especially because it gives no more room to the government to contest the matter, the government’s ignorance of the decision only demonstrates its disrespect for the rule of law, which it ironically has consistently been advocating. Worse still, the government’s failure to comply with the Supreme Court ruling will create legal uncertainty, one of the key challenges facing the country’s quest for legal reform.
It was the absence of legal certainty, or justice undelivered, that led the farmers to come to Jakarta
Sadly, Patmi, one of the about 100 farmers who were staging their renewed protest in front of the State Palace, died of a heart attack early on Tuesday. The sympathy.this has engendered has brought “snowballing support” from individuals, community groups and state organisations including the National Commission of Human Rights (Komnas HAM). The Legal Aid Institute Foundation (YLBHI) has housed and fed the farmers while they have been in Jakarta.
The campaign has brought out the best in graphic artists, and I’ve included several examples and a few photographs, many found on the Twitter feed of Womens’ March Jakarta, in a downloadable folder here.