15 years later, mud continues to gush in the villages of East Java as locals relax from the smells and heat
SIDOARJO, East Java: Indonesian named Muanisah remembers the day she held her 40-day-old baby in despair as he struggled to breathe.
She was about to have breakfast on May 29, 2006 when she smelled a pungent odor which she said made her baby cry while panting.
“He was yawning … unable to breathe.” I was afraid that something bad had happened to my child, âsaid Mdm Muanisah.
Not knowing what the smell was, she left her house but the smell was there too.
She decided to take public transport and take refuge with her family a few kilometers away where the air was pure. There, her baby could finally breathe normally, she said.
“They (the authorities) just said there was a gas leak,” said Mdm Muanisah, then 22.
Within days, it became clear that the cause of the smell was a bursting mudslide in the middle of a paddy field in Sidoarjo, east Java, just 200 meters from Mdm Muanisah’s house.
Now, 15 years later, the mudslide has buried thousands of homes, factories and shops. It is currently believed to cover an area of ââover 650 ha and shows no signs of stopping.
The Sidoarjo mudslide disrupted the lives of around 60,000 people, forcing them to flee or adapt to the unpleasant conditions.
The mudslide also produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that causes global warming and leads to climate change.
A February study by senior researcher Adriano Mazzini et al showed that the mudslide releases 100,000 tonnes of methane per year into the atmosphere. It is said to be the site with the highest methane emission ever recorded for a single natural gas event.
PEOPLE SUFFER FROM THE FLOW OF BOUUE
The cause of the mudslide is still a subject of debate until today.
Some say the eruption was triggered by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake two days earlier in Yogyakarta, about 260 km away.
There are also people who believe that drilling by oil and gas company Lapindo Brantas nearby was the culprit. Others believe that the combination of the two events may have contributed to the mudslide.
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Mr. Khudori, whose house was buried in the mudslide six months after his first appearance, is frustrated by the inconvenience.
âThe smell was too strongâ¦ and it also affected the water, (I had) itchy rashes, it was polluted, you can’t drink it. Previously, we could drink it before the mudslide.
âAfter the emergence of the mudslide, sometimes if I take a shower, I will itch. And the smell made me breathless,â said Mr. Khudori, who has a name.
The 54-year-old was forced to find a new home about 1.5 km away.
âI can still feel it. No matter 1.5 km, even 5 km, it can still be felt during the rainy season.
âIf it’s the rainy season, the smell of methane is very strong. But when it’s the dry season, it’s not that easy, âKhudori said.
He also observed that since the emergence of the mudslide, Sidoarjo has become hotter. âThe mudslide gives off heat,â the father of six said, adding that the flooding seemed to be happening more now.
He said there was nothing he could do about the disease other than turn to bottled mineral water for consumption.
A 2017 study showed that the temperature of the mud, which was previously 100 degrees Celsius, was 60 degrees Celsius. Data from the meteorological agency showed that the average temperature in Sidoarjo has seen an increase of less than 1 degree Celsius over the past 15 years.
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Mr Khudori, who previously worked in a factory near the mudslide, now works as a motorcyclist with no fixed income because the mud had also buried his workplace.
Mdm Muanisah, whose house was buried in the mud in November 2006, has since rented a house about 3 miles from the mudslide.
She said she couldn’t do anything about the complaints they have either, other than using a mask around the house to ward off the scent she sometimes smells.
âEven before COVID-19, I got used to wearing a mask,â she said.
REFUND AND PIPES TO CONTAIN LA RAFALE
At its peak, the mud released was equivalent to about 25 Olympic-size swimming pools a day, authorities said.
To ensure that the mudslide did not continue to bury the surroundings, an embankment and pipes were built to divert the mud to a nearby river.
The sludge is 80 percent water, said Pattiasina Jefry Recky, head of the Sidoarjo Mud Control Center (PPLS), which is the mudslide oversight agency.
âThe mud from the burst is about 60,000 to 90,000 cubic meters per day. And we can sink about 30 million cubic meters per year in the Porong River, but it is not enough because we are facing many problems.
âThe ships that (pump the mud) are old ships, so we can’t work more efficiently,â he said.
In addition, the agency must ensure that the backfill is solid.
Mr Pattiasina said some geological experts predicted the mudslide would ooze for at least 40 years.
âIt’s only been 15 years. If the drainage and protection of the embankments are safe, then they are.
“We are only afraid of the rainy season because our embankment is an earth dam. It was built in haste at the time. For us technicians, a technical embankment should not be like this.”
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He said the embankment was 11 m high. “And most likely, it can’t be more than that. We are concerned that if it is higher, it will collapse because the carrying capacity is not strong,” he added.
PROPOSALS FOR USING MUD FLOW
Mr Mazzini, who is a senior researcher at the Center for Earth Evolution and Dynamics (CEED) at the University of Oslo, said the Sidoarjo mudslide lies between a magmatic volcano and a volcano mud.
Mr Mazzini, who has studied the mudslide since 2006 and visited the site several times, concluded that the mudslide is connected to the active Arjuno-Welirang volcanoes about 20 km away.
The conclusion was made because the gas and water from the mudslide and volcanoes are the same.
His latest study, which was conducted with his colleagues using a combined method of ground and satellite observations, showed that the concentration of methane in Sidoarjo is very high compared to other parts of East Java. . Most of the methane comes from the mudslide, according to the study.
Government agencies told CNA they did not know how much methane gas was released by the mudslide.
PPLS’s Mr Pattiasina said there were plans to make lithium batteries out of the mud, but at the moment that is still under discussion.
Sidoarjo Environment and Sanitation Agency Director Sigit Setyawan said the agency planned to work with an energy company to produce biomass from sludge as an alternative source of renewable energy since 2019.
âHowever, the plan was constrained by the COVID-19 pandemic,â he told CNA.
He added that the agency also offered to plant productive crops on the mud buried land, which the government bought from locals because the area was too dangerous to live there.
THE GOVERNMENT MUST DO MORE: ENVIRONMENT NGO
Mr. Anung Suprayitno, head of the Malang Meteorological, Climate and Geophysical Agency (BMKG), said that although the mudslide has been around for 15 years, more data is needed to conclude its impact on the climate.
The agency, which oversees weather and climate data management across East Java, said it did not know the full extent of the Sidoarjo mudslide contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. tight.
While weather data for the past 15 years shows that the temperature in Sidoarjo has risen by less than 1 degree Celsius and precipitation has increased in a small amount, Mr Suprayitno said the agency was unsure whether the flow of mud was a strengthening factor that accelerates the local scale of climate change.
Mr. Rere Christanto, who is the executive director of environmental non-governmental organization Walhi East Java, said there had been an increase in disasters in recent years in East Java, especially floods and landslides. ground.
The Sidoarjo mudslide is part of a site that represents the largest emission of methane and therefore has an important role to play in the accumulation of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, he said. declared.
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He said it was important for the government to recognize this and do more than throw water sludge back into the Porong River.
The government must analyze the mud and examine the possible extent and danger of its contents, he said.
“Now if we have a threat map, we can imagine what actions the government can take and then take precautions. How big is the area and where. For example, the community can be given masks to wear.”
“But that won’t happen if the government doesn’t want to admit (that the site is releasing huge amounts of methane).”