No end in sight: Sidoarjo mudslide continues to drown hopes, 15 years later – environment
The hot wind and the pungent smell of methane is what Sukardi has experienced every day for the past 15 years in the Polo Gunting hamlet of Gempol Sari village in Tanggulangin district, Sidoarjo regency, in the is from Java.
Life has been full of hardships for the 52-year-old resident since a mud volcano erupted in 2006 in nearby Porong District, about 5 kilometers from his home. The resulting mudslide slowly overwhelmed villages, rice paddies and other places of his childhood, now immortalized only in Sukardi’s memories. The mud also drowned his hopes for a better life and plunged him into pessimism.
“I am already tired. Worse still, I don’t know in whom we should place our hopes. The government? I don’t think depending on them is a good idea, ”he said. Jakarta Post May 29, anniversary of the disaster.
“[Community] solidarity is the only thing that has kept me here until today. It helps me to accept all the conditions that I went through. Even though we feel broken and defeated, as long as we are together, everything will be fine, ”he said..
Sukardi’s house is located only about 50 meters from the embankment that was built to hold back the mudslide. His everyday sight is nothing but mounds of dirt, the gravelly soil scattering around his yard whenever the wind blows hard. He was also sentenced to live an old age with the respiratory problems he developed after breathing polluted air every day.
“This village was beautiful. Every morning there, “he said, pointing to the south,” Mount Arjuna-Welirang was once such a sight. “
“Now look at the embankment and the wall. There is nothing beautiful about it, ”Sukardi said with a laugh.
Sukardi’s house is slowly sagging due to the landfill and as a result he is constantly repairing and renovating his house. Sometimes little mounds of earth suddenly appear, and he says not a day goes by that his house does not collapse due to the displacement of land.
“Especially when it rains. Wow, I feel like I’m going to have a heart attack all the time. The embankment cracked a few times, [and] an abundant mudslide seeped in. As a result, our house was flooded. It was pretty deep, up to the waist, ”Sukardi said, covering her face with her hand. He then looked past the vast embankment, which currently looks like a lake of mud.
‘Little Chicken’: Sukardi stands under a cracked wall at her home in the village of Gempol Sari in Sidoarjo, East Java on May 29, 2021, on the 15th anniversary of the mudslide disaster from Sidoarjo. He is constantly under pressure because he fears his house will collapse at any time as the land it is on collapses as a result of the disaster. (JP / Adryan Yoga)
Sukardi said he had received a one-time payment of around 1.5 million rupees ($ 105) as compensation in the 15 years since the disaster. Otherwise, he had been left on his own to maintain his house and his health.
“In addition, in the past my livelihood has also been affected. I was a farmer and owned a paddy field. […] I was prosperous. My field is not exactly sinking, but it is no longer clean and cannot be planted because it is often exposed to trash oozing from the fill. Water mixed with mud spilled over the field several times. Now I ended up becoming a peddler like that. The income is minimal, but what else can I do? “He said.
The shortage of potable water is a critical issue for people who live near the Lapindo embankment. The 2006 disaster contaminated the water that supplies the villages in the south of Sidoarjo with toxic substances. The water is a cloudy reddish brown and has a salty taste, and residents bear the costs of accessing a clean water supply.
One resident who has experienced this is Warsita, or “Grandmother Sita”, an elderly woman who lives with her grandson in Gempol Sari.
Sita said she had to pay Rp 10,000 per day for drinking water because the water that goes to her house can only be used for washing dishes. It cannot be used to wash clothes that come out dirtier.
It’s even worse for her family’s daily drinking needs, and there’s no doubt their health is at stake.
Strict minimum: Warsita sits with her grandson on May 29, 2021 at their home in the village of Gempol Sari, which was flooded with mud at the start of the 2006 mudslide disaster in Sidoarjo, eastern Java. (JP / Adryan Yoga)
“Rather than catching a disease, we have to buy our own water supply whether we like it or not,” Sita said.
“The [house’s] the water is so sticky that it is not cool at all. If you mix water with soap, no suds appear. We don’t know anything about toxic substances or what [the water] contains. But just looking at it something doesn’t seem right, don’t you think? ” she said.
Help in the event of a death threat
On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the Sidoarjo Mudslide Disaster, more commonly referred to as the “Lapindo Mudslide Disaster” in Indonesian media, the non-profit organization Komunitas Kecil Bergerak Indonesia (KKBI) delivered five 700 liter tanks to supply the village with drinking water.
The tanks have been placed around the perimeter of the village and are filled to the top every weekend. Villagers are not charged a single rupee for water or service, which are fully funded by the KKBI.
The initiative has not been appreciated in some quarters, however, and Ardi Kurniaji of the four-member KKBI says he receives frequent life-threatening calls if he doesn’t immediately stop helping the villagers. But he has no intention of doing so, and rather intends to share the joys and sorrows of his fellow human beings, he says, as is his calling.
“I am not at all afraid. Such threats are common, and also an understandable risk for me. After all, we are not asking for money from [the government], everything comes from our own pockets. If my life ends here, I’m not afraid, ”said Ardi.
The residents of Gempol Sari have been promised one year of drinking water through the self-financing KKBI. The four young members of the community, all creative workers, have set aside a portion of their income to help meet the needs of the people who live along the sea wall.
A slim man sits lazily on a motorcycle, slowly smoking a cigarette. This is Puji Waluyo, better known locally as Mr. Keple (using the English term), who has been busy for the past decade guiding visitors on a tour of his submerged village. Every now and then he offers them a DVD with first amateur footage of how the mudslide happened.
“It’s ironic, actually. It’s like inviting strangers to visit our family’s grave. The problem is, it’s not just the land. There is a story and there are stories. memories that were buried deep in the mud, ”he said with a small smile and turned away.
“But it’s even more ironic if my family at home can’t eat at all,” Keple said, eyes holding back tears.
The village of Keple, Jati Rejo, was submerged at the start of the long tragedy caused by the disaster. He had to move from one rented house to another, he said, because he only received 20% of the compensation. Although he declined to say how much, he said it led to an argument with one of his brothers who was also struggling financially.
East Java. A local four-youth-led nonprofit, Komunitas Kecil Bergerak Indonesia (KKBI), provided five tanks that it fills each week with clean water, but a member says he has received death threats for having helped the village.”/>Water for life: Residents of Gempol Sari village line up to fill containers with clean water on May 29, 2021 in Sidoarjo, East Java. A local four-youth-led nonprofit, Komunitas Kecil Bergerak Indonesia (KKBI), provided five tanks that it fills each week with clean water, but a member says he has received death threats for having helped the village. (JP / Adryan Yoga)
Since COVID-19 broke out in Indonesia, Keple said he could count tourists who visited the embankment on one side. In the 2010s he was able to bring home hundreds of thousands of rupees every day, but over the past year he has sometimes not done enough to cover the gasoline for his motorcycle. He endured hunger all day just so he could bring home a meager income for his family.
“Now earning just Rp 50,000 is a struggle. Even on weekends I don’t earn that much. Just today, an important day, I only had one client,” he said, referring to the anniversary of the disaster. “But it’s not that bad, [it’s] better than nothing.”
Keple took the To post to visit the 7.5 square kilometer area of the embankment and stopped at a place where the dredges were anchored. He threw away the cigarette he was smoking and, with a trembling finger, pointed to the expanse of mud, hoarsely saying that this was where his house once stood.
“Now you can imagine it, can’t you?” Imagine how deep the mud that flooded our village was. Fifteen years and nothing is settled. Even by them, the culprit of all this tragedy. Masya allha [if Allah wills]he said, wiping away the tears that were slowly falling from his eyes.
Keple was referring to the oil and gas company PT Lapindo Brantas which was drilling for gas in the region at the time of the disaster, which was widely viewed as a man-made and unnatural disaster.
The mud has continued to flow over the years, inexorably sinking people’s hopes for a solution or a settlement, not to mention any improvement in their lives or their living conditions. Sukardi, Keple and Granny Sita seem to believe that eventually their village will become a giant mud lake.
“Yes [the mudflow] is not resolved, it will be as if the other villages were waiting their turn. Yesterday you could see that my village was drowning. But tomorrow it could be your village, nobody knows, ”Keple said.