07 January 2008

Mud and More Mud

Well, the Lapindo disaster that has devastated and paralysed Sidoarjo seems to be getting worse despite all the promises that things would get better and the victims would be looked after. The latest fiasco in this never ending drama is the collapse of the embankments that are supposed to contain the mud flow and prevent it from inundating more villages and farms.

The collapse of the embankments saw the surrounding rail lines and roads submerged in up to 80cms of hot stinking mud. And while the people responsible for the embankments twiddle their thumbs and look for someone to blame the mud continues to rise and is now above 1 meter in some places. Just as Bakrie has sort to blame an earthquake for the disaster the Agency responsible is also looking to blame God, this time too much rain. Yet, the reality is that as the earth continues to spew the hot mud out onto the surface the integrity of the land under the embankments is compromised and they have started to collapse under their own weight. So, if you cannot stop the flow then you must build secondary and tertiary containment walls to ensure that where one collapses you have another ready to pick up the slack.

The other problem that ensures people continue to become victims of this disaster is that people are refusing to relocate to other areas. This refusal is based on the fact that they have not been compensated as they are supposed to have been. But it is not only the local residents that are losing money and being affected by this, the government is losing money as well. The inundation of the railway tracks with thick mud means that trains cannot continue to run and tickets have to be refunded and alternative arrangements made.

The cost of the disaster continues to climb with each passing day. There are estimates now that losses will total in the tens of trillions of Rupiah. It is high time that Bakrie and his family made good on the compensation to the victims of this tragic environmental disaster and forked over some of that hard-earned cash he is sitting on. After all he is the richest man in Indonesia and as the Coordinating Minister for Community Prosperity it is about time some of that prosperity made its way to the people of Sidoarjo. This is especially so since his personal fortune has climbed from a miserly USD 1.2 billion to USD 5.4 billion in the space of 12 months.

Updates to follow on this story as it is not likely to come to an end any time soon!


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