Indonesia govt, farmers still at odds over Batang power project

Indonesia govt, farmers still at odds over Batang power project
Greenpeace activists wearing black masks and face paint attend a rally outside the Maritime and Fisheries Ministry in Jakarta on July 4, 2012.

JAKARTA - Land acquisitions for Indonesia's US$4 billion (S$5.47 billion) Batang power station have finally been completed, a government minister said this week, although an activist working with farmers in the area said they are still not ready to give up their property.

The 2,000-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power plant in Central Java, heralded as the biggest generator of its kind in Southeast Asia, has been held up many times due to the difficulties in buying land for the site.

Farmers and fishermen affected by the Batang project have fought to hold on to their land and livelihoods, with the farmers saying the land is in a prime rice growing area.

Claims by the government that disputes over land for the power project had been settled are not correct, Greenpeace Campaign Coordinator Arif Fiyanto told Reuters by text on Thursday. "It's not true," he said.

Fiyanto said he was currently with traditional landowners in Batang who were refusing to hand over their certificates for 30.4 hectares of land to the power company building the plant.

Land minister Ferry Mursyidan Baldan late on Wednesday had said to reporters that "all land problems related to the Batang power plant have been cleared." If financial closing can now be completed and construction started soon, the end of 2018 or early 2019 could see the start-up of the power plant, Jarman, director general of electricity at the energy and mineral resources ministry told reporters.

Baldan and Jarman could not be reached to comment on Greenpeace's statement that the land disputes are unresolved.

Officials at Indonesia's state-owned electricity utility, Perusahaan Listrik Negara have previously said construction of a coal-fired power plant takes about four years.

Indonesia's power demand is growing at more than 7 per cent a year, and it is struggling to stick to a plan to add 60 gigawatts of power capacity to its existing grid by 2022 to meet the burgeoning needs of its increasingly affluent economy.

PT Bhimasena Power Indonesia, a joint venture company set up by PT Adaro Energy Tbk, Itochu Corporation and Electric Power Development Co. Ltd. (J-Power) to operate and build the Batang power plant, sent a force majeure notice to contractors last year due to the land acquisition problems.

PT Bhimasena Power Indonesia could not be reached for comment on Thursday, but a J-power spokesman said the company had not heard that land acquisitions had been completed.

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