Bali – Southeast Asia (SEA) is said to be the “last bastion” of coal industry glory. In 2019, while the rest of the world was cutting back on coal, coal power generation in SEA grew by 12 percent. It is an ironic reality that the region contributes to and is heavily impacted by climate change, due to its reliance on coal.
The Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED) in Manila says the civil and community movement against coal has paid off. Financial institutions have been forced to withdraw from financing coal-fired power plants. Unfortunately, SEA countries are not using this development to switch to truly clean energy from renewables.
Southeast Asians are now forced to face another fossil fuel: Natural gas, which is more accurately referred to as fossil gas.
“SEA countries as the last bastion of coal are rapidly turning into fossil gas and LNG hubs. Governments and power companies are promoting massive gas expansion plans under the guise of development,” said Gerry Arrances, executive director of CEED.
Today, Southeast Asia has 117 Giga Watts (GW) of new fossil gas capacity in pre-construction, surpassing East Asia’s 77 GW in unbuilt fossil gas power plant expansion.
Touted as a clean alternative to coal, fossil gas is dangerous for climate-vulnerable Southeast Asia.
Moreover, the planned expansion of fossil gas in Southeast Asia threatens the region’s rich marine biodiversity. These concerns have prompted the indigenous community in Desa Adat Intaran, Sanur, Bali to strongly oppose plans to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in their area.
Dozens of representatives of the residents of Intaran Traditional Village, Sanur, visited the Bali Parliament building on June 9.
Together with pecalang and prajuru of the traditional village, they submitted a letter of rejection against the construction of a planned LNG terminal in the mangrove forest area of the Ngurah Rai Grand Forest Park (Tahura), Sidakarya Village, South Denpasar District, Denpasar City, Bali.
The planned LNG terminal would be a project of the Bali Province Regional Company PT Dewata Energi Bersih (DEB) together with PT PLN (Persero) through its subsidiary PT PLN Gas and Geothermal.
The area has a vital function as a carbon sink and as protection against abrasion and against tsunamis in Bali. The utilization of coastal areas in the Badung Strait is also feared to have an impact on the coral reef ecosystem.
The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), the Bali Environmental Advocacy Working Committee (Kekal) and the Bali People’s Struggle Democracy Front (Frontier) had previously also rejected the LNG terminal construction plan.
The rejection was conveyed during the socialization of the LNG terminal construction plan in Sidakarya, Densel, by PT Dewata Energi Bersih (DEB), last May 21.
The construction of the LNG terminal is considered to be in conflict with regional regulations on regional spatial plans, as well as the Coastal and Small Island Management Act.
Ironically, PT DEB has not yet obtained an environmental impact assessment (EIA). Kelihan Banjar Dangin Peken Desa Adat Intaran, Made Sunarta, expressed his concern about the sustainability of the temple on the Sanur coast if it is affected by abrasion that may be caused by the planned construction of the LNG terminal.
“Although the location of the LNG terminal project is in Sidakarya, it is adjacent to the Intaran Traditional Village area,” said Made Sunarta.
He added that there are six temples in Intaran Traditional Village that are at risk from the project. One of them is Pura Dalem Pengembak, which is only about 280 meters from the planned location of the LNG terminal.
In addition, the construction of the LNG terminal is also considered contrary to President Joko Widodo’s (Jokowi) mission in mangrove restoration efforts. Shrinking mangrove areas can degrade the quality of Bali’s environment and disaster mitigation, cause ecosystem damage, and exacerbate abrasion on the Sanur coast, as well as potentially destroying the sacred temple area on the Sanur coast.
“We are not rejecting clean energy. What we reject is the construction of the LNG terminal, which should be in accordance with the Bali Provincial Regulation in Pelindo Benoa, but now it is in Sidakarya and Sanur,” he said.
Opposition to the project grows
According to Sunarta, 14,273 indigenous people rejected the plan for this huge project because they will live forever side by side with the LNG terminal if construction goes ahead.
Although the community recognizes the importance of clean energy for the island, public dialogue on the project left many questions unanswered. This prompted residents to write to the Bali Legislative Council. They also sent letters to the governor of Bali, and the Denpasar City Government.
Made Krisna Dinata, director of Walhi Bali, expressed his rejection of the plan to build an LNG Terminal in the mangrove special area of Ngurah Rai People’s Forest Park in Sidakarya Village during a consultation by project implementer PT Dewata Energi Bersih, at the end of May 2022.
He is worried that the construction of the LNG terminal and dredging of 3,300,000 cubic meters of sand for the sea channel will accelerate abrasion and will certainly threaten the temples on the coast.
He explained that in addition to legal regulations, research found that the project has the potential to damage mangroves because of the sand dredging.
Even the results of research conducted by Kekal, Frontier, and Walhi found that the construction of the LNG terminal in the mangrove area would clear at least 7.73 hectares of mangroves and damage 5.75 hectares of coral reefs.
“The dredging will definitely result in sedimentation. Then mangrove clearing will give a bad impression ahead of the G20 Presidency which actually campaigns for mangrove forests for climate change,” he continued.
Wayan Gendo Suardana, chairman of NGO Kekal Bali, said that the LNG terminal issue is a departure from the regional regulation on the spatial planning of Bali Province, which stipulates that the LNG terminal would be built in Benoa Harbor.
Law No. 26/2007 on Spatial Planning states that the review and revision of the provincial spatial plan should not be done simply to accommodate deviations in spatial utilization.
“This means that the revision of spatial planning should not be done to accommodate a project license,” said Gendo, Wednesday (22/6).
The plan to build the Sidakarya LNG terminal stems from a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the governor of Bali and PLN on August 21, 2019. Under the MOU, the governor’s obligation is to provide land for the LNG Terminal and appoint a regional company to manage it.
After appointing the regional company PT Dewata Energi Bersih (PT DEB), a joint feasibility study was conducted with Indonesia Power in 2021. In that year, the Technical Implementation Unit of the Forest Management Unit of the Ngurah Rai Tahura Forest Park also changed the LNG Terminal project area from a protection block to a special block and the Bali DPRD wanted to change the Bali Province spatial planning regulation to accommodate the LNG Terminal, because on April 21, 2021 the governor of Bali had issued a principle permit.
According to Gendo, if the basis used by the Bali governor is a city-level regional regulation, then it must refer to the Spatial Planning Law, which is arranged in stages and must be done in a bottom-up manner.
Banner photo: President Joko Widodo visited Ngurah Rai Grand Forest Park in Bali in late 2021. This mangrove forest is the venue for the G20 Presidency and is designated as the location for the construction of a 3-hectare LNG Terminal in Sidakarya Village, Denpasar. (Courtesy: Bali Provincial Forestry and Environment Official)