A hydropower plant project in the Batang Toru ecosystem in South Tapanuli, North Sumatra, has been lauded for its future role of supplying electricity to the supposedly underpowered province and helping curb the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.However, these claims have been refuted in a new report from an energy consultant, who argues the Rp 22 trillion (US$1.6 billion) project is “entirely unnecessary […] for future energy needs” and poses “a critical threat to the local ecosystem and the critically endangered Tapanuli orangutan.”David Brown, an energy consultant with Brown Brothers Energy and Environment, said upon the reports launch in late January that parties that supported the project had “mischaracterized, exaggerated or just manufactured much of the rationale for the dam”. “Combined, the new hydropower plants alone will produce four times more power than the Batang Toru power plant,” Brown said.He also refuted claims the hydropower plant would replace several diesel-powered plants currently operating across the province, as no such plants are currently in operation, according to the electricity company.He added he reached the conclusions based on data provided by PLN and did not personally support the construction of gas-powered power plants.Read also: Scientists slam govt for giving nod to Batang Toru damThe company that will operate the Batang Toru plant, PT North Sumatra Hydro Energy (NSHE), claimed the dam would help the country achieve its climate change mitigation targets. Under the Paris Agreement, Indonesia pledged in its nationally determined contribution (NDC) to reduce its emissions by 29 percent below a business as usual (BAU) projection, or by up to 41 percent below BAU with international assistance.The company claimed the Batang Toru hydropower project would reduce the country’s carbon emissions by 1.6 to 2.2 million tons per year, or 4 percent of its NDC.“The actual figure, however, would not be as high as claimed. If the dam replaces a power ship currently powering up the province, it would only reduce 1.1 million tons of CO2 — smaller than claimed by the company,” Brown said.The construction of the power plant has been met with protests from scientists and activists since 2018. They argued the project could potentially endanger the Tapanuli orangutan, an endemic species to the Batang Toru ecosystem.Scientists confirmed in 2017 that the Tapanuli orangutans were a separate species from their Bornean and Sumatran cousins. The dam project was kicked off in 2012. Researchers believe only 800 Tapanuli orangutans remain in their habitat of Batang Toru, prompting the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to include the species on its red list as “critically endangered”.Scientists believe the construction of roads, power lines and the dam itself would pose increased risks to the already endangered species.The Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi) has filed a lawsuit against the plan, claiming the dam would impact the livelihoods of farmers downstream as the dam would arrest the flow of the river for 18 hours a day.Read also: Endangered Tapanuli orangutan found malnourished, injured out of habitat near Batang ToruNSHE spokesperson Firman Taufick dismissed the study, describing Brown as not credible.“He is not part of the government responsible for developing the power system in the country. He is also not an electricity expert,” Firman said in a recent statement.The company alleged that Brown’s report was a part of a campaign launched by global environmental group Mighty Earth against the construction of the hydropower plant.“This is a campaign launched by Mighty Earth. Everyone knows who they are, as well as their motivation and interests. One thing is for sure, their interests are not for Indonesia. We know that,” said Firman. NSHE is cooperating with Sinohydro Corporation Limited, a Chinese state-owned hydropower engineering and construction company, to build the dam.In a statement made available to The Jakarta Post on Friday, Brown regretted that Firman “did not comment on [his] report’s actual findings but did see it fit to make two remarks about [him].”Brown added that the information in his report on the province’s electricity sector originated from PLN’s most recent RUPTL. “With that said, normal arithmetical analysis of information sourced from PLN’s 2019 RUPTL is fair game. I drew logical conclusions from public information that PLN itself has promulgated.”Regarding Firman’s criticism of Brown’s qualification, the energy analyst said he and his brother, Jeffrey D. Brown, who co-authored the Batang Toru report, had more than 50 years of energy experience.David said he had worked as an energy policy advisor to members of the United States Congress, before working as an oil, gas and mining advisor with the World Bank in Indonesia. He recently wrote a feasibility study and an investment proposal for the proposed purchase of a bioenergy plant in East Kalimantan.Meanwhile, Jeffery was senior vice president at Seattle-based clean energy development firm Summit Power Group. He had also worked for 20 years as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs, advising clients related to virtually every type of energy and electricity generation project.“In light of the qualifications outlined above, I would respectfully submit that Brown Brothers Energy and Environment is qualified to take a view on electricity supply and demand in North Sumatra, particularly when our view is largely in line with the electrification plans of the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry and PLN,” said Brown.People-Centered Business and Economic Institute (IBEKA) founder Tri Mumpuni said the government should focus on building micro hydropower plants in areas not yet electrified across the archipelago, rather than promoting the construction of large projects, such as the Batang Toru dam.“We should focus on promoting energy sovereignty, especially for people living in remote areas, because it will also empower them financially, among other things,” said Tri, who has been promoting the development of micro hydropower plants in several villages across the country.Editor’s note: This article has been updated on Feb. 18 to accommodate a clarification by David Brown.Topics : “Supporters said the dam would supply electricity necessary to support children across the province to study at night. However, North Sumatra is one of the most electrified provinces in the country, with 95.8 percent of its population having access to electricity,” Brown said.He added that most of those who did not have access to electricity — 600,000 people — lived on Nias Island. “They won’t get benefits from electricity production on the Sumatran mainland.”Brown went on to argue that the power produced by the dam would not help North Sumatra, which is set to build dozens of other new power plants by 2028.According to state-owned electricity company PLN’s 2019-2028 electricity procurement plan (RUPTL), 80 new power plants will be built across the province, including 49 hydropower plants.
Topics : The APIB accuses the government of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro of having “done nothing” to prevent the relentless spread of coronavirus in areas where 750,000 indigenous people live. So far, more than 5,300 have been infected.Brazil is the second-worst-hit country in the world, with more than a million infections and over 50,000 deaths from COVID-19.”If he had adopted preventative measures from the beginning, we would have avoided this number of deaths,” Sonia Guajajara, APIB coordinator, told a podcast for the Socio-Environmental Institute NGO (ISA).Nonagenarian Kaiapo leader Raoni Metuktire claimed Bolsonaro was “taking advantage” of the pandemic to further exploitative projects in the Amazon that could endanger indigenous communities. ‘Pandemic of abandonment’ Poverty is further exacerbating the situation.Some 5,000 Qom people living in Chaco, in the north of Argentina, rely on social support as quarantine rules have prevented them from selling their handicrafts. Malnutrition doesn’t help, and there have been 16 deaths in less than a month.”These are vulnerable neighborhoods where they live in overcrowded situations, without access to basic services such as running water, which makes the virus spread faster,” said Argentina’s Social Development Minister Daniel Arroyo.In Guatemala, where half the population is indigenous, government assistance “hasn’t had an impact in places where the largest indigenous populations live,” said the human rights ombudsman in early June.”There’s already a pandemic of abandonment” of indigenous people, Daniel Pascual, coordinator of the Peasant Unity Committee, told AFP. ‘Fear for ancestral wisdom’ Wearing a crown of feathers, a necklace of tusks and a surgical mask, Remberto Cahuamari is worried that the loss of “grandparents” to COVID-19 will rob the Ticuna community in the Colombian department of Amazonas of its ancestral wisdom.”We’d be left with our young who in the future won’t know anything about our cultures and our customs. That’s what scares us,” he told AFP.A man with his face covered by a mask and holding a stick watches over the entrance to the village of El Progreso, which can only be reached by the Tucushira, one of more than 1,000 tributaries of the Amazon. This poor and depopulated part of southern Colombia has seen 320 coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants — the worst in the country — and 954 deaths per million, compared to Colombia’s average of just 33.Two-thirds of the village’s population is indigenous, and “at risk of extinction,” according to Colombia’s National Indigenous Organization.The extensive area has no road connection to the rest of the country, and the only public hospital has no intensive care unit.”When COVID-19 arrived, our defenses were low,” Armando Wooriyu, secretary to a local indigenous organization, told AFP.He said some communities have moved to remote locations or closed off access and turned to traditional medicine to fight the virus.In Loreto, in the Peruvian jungle, the virus has hit communities already affected by dengue, flu, rubella and smallpox.Some areas are only accessible by boat, and the nearest medical facility is “between six and eight hours, and up to three days or more” away, said the Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the East.It said 60 percent of villages are lacking either a medical center, equipment or medicine.The Yuqui people from the tropical center of Bolivia are “in grave danger” of disappearing after 16 of its 300 members became infected, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The Pan American Health Organization says that at least 20,000 people living in the Amazon River basin, which passes through Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname, are infected.On the border between Brazil and Venezuela, the Yanomamis territory is occupied by around 20,000 illegal miners, according to Survival International.Sometimes, the illegal miners and loggers carry the virus with them, exposing indigenous populations to danger.A study by the Federal University of Minas Gerais and ISA predicted that 14,000 Yanomamis could become infected if authorities don’t act to protect them. Indigenous people in Latin America have been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic due to weak immune systems and centuries of state neglect. The threat posed to indigenous communities was highlighted last week with the virus death of Brazilian chief Paulinho Paiakan, an iconic defender of the Amazon rainforest, which is home to 420 indigenous communities.Paiakan’s death in a hospital in the north of Brazil was one of more than 300 amongst the country’s 100 indigenous communities, according to the Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) group. That was five times as many deaths as in the whole of 2019.
The management of Barbar Motors Corporation has threatened to file a criminal lawsuit against the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), claiming the agency illegally took US$5,000 and confiscated 3,447.60 kilogram (49 cylinders) of refrigeration and air-conditioning gases, valued at US$100,000The EPA in January 2014, announced it had fined the Company US$25,000 for illegally smuggling bad gases into the country, which violates the Environmental law.But, addressing journalists on Tuesday, March 4, Sam Saryon, acting manager of Barbar Motors admitted his company was fined US$25,000 by EPA, but was forced to pay US$5,000.“We were compelled to pay US$5,000, after receiving closure threats,” Saryon further alleged. “We did not violate any EPA laws. Instead, we were forced to pay US$5,000, after they threatened to close our business” he alleged.According to him, the imported gases was verified and cleared by both the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) and BIVAC.“These are government Import Permit Declaration (IPD) and other relevant documents declaring that our products were good to be used in the country. Our partner in Belgium also confirmed it,” he clarified, though he did not name the Belgian partner.“How can they say we smuggled bad products into the country? We did not do so.”“We did not violate any environmental laws. Our products were verified and cleared by the MOC and BIVAC,” he repeated, “Where is the instrument used to determine that the products were bad?”Where do they get the information?” Saryon asked.All of these are calculated to exploit the company. We will not sit down for the company to lose such huge sums of money.”“We are warning the EPA to give back our money and the confiscated products immediately, or else we are going to sue them for theft of property,” Barbar Motor acting manager threatened.Unfortunately, Saryon claimed, “EPA, without any search and seize warrant from a competent court of jurisdiction, forcibly entered the warehouse and confiscated the products.”However, a source within the EPA, who asked not to be named because he is not the official spokesperson of the agency, said the corporation had indeed brought in the illegal substances and had intentionally mislabeled them.“When we confiscated the gases, we tested them in our lab and found out they were contaminated. We approached them and told them about our findings. They were fined and willingly paid US$5,000 into government’s coffers,” our source said.This person, however, stated that he was surprised to hear that Barbar Motor decided to go to Court.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)