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The Blue Planet Project on fact-finding mission in Indonesia

Karunananthan: "The headwaters of the Citarum River - source of drinking water for Jakarta, vital to food production in the Indonesian province of West Java and subject to tremendous industrial pollution."
Karunananthan: “The headwaters of the Citarum River – source of drinking water for Jakarta, vital to food production in the Indonesian province of West Java and subject to tremendous industrial pollution.”

Blue Planet Project campaigner Meera Karunananthan is currently on a research mission to support the struggle against neo-liberal water policies in Indonesia.

In terms of context, she explains, “For decades, Indonesian movements have been fighting neo-liberal policies imposed by international financial institutions aimed at ensuring greater access to water resources for transnational corporations operating in Indonesia. …The Indonesian water movement has won two major battles this year. In February 2015, a World Bank-imposed national water policy was annulled by the constitutional court and in March 2015, a Jakarta district court ordered an end to the contracts with private water companies in Jakarta. …However, transnational corporations that have benefited from environmental deregulation and structural adjustment are ramping up their efforts to outmaneuver the public and social movements as they lobby for new policies that will continue to serve their interests.”

The research mission includes:

  1. On Dec. 2-3, meetings in the capital city of Jakarta with national organizations and local groups. The national water justice coalition, KruHa (the People’s Coalition for the Right to Water) has been holding public consultations with groups to draft a water policy that reflects the environmental, social, economic and public health needs of local populations.


  2. On Dec. 4-5, a visit to the cities of Bandung and Bekasi to learn about the struggle against an Asian Development Bank funded Integrated Water Resources Management project. One example of this is the now-stalled Integrated Citarum Water Resources Management Investment Program. The Asian Development Bank was going to provide $50 million to redirect part of the Citarum River through the West Tarum Canal for irrigation and industry. This project would have meant that almost 900 families living along the Citarum River watershed area would have been evicted.


  3. On Dec. 6, a visit to the city of Sukabumi to see the impacts of the Paris-based transnational Danone’s bottled water operations in Indonesia. The bottled water industry there denies access to water to small-scale farmers by buying land on which essential water sources are located. Local farmers have seen water levels drop significantly impacting their ability to produce food crops and their livelihoods.


  4. On Dec. 7-10, a visit to the island of Sulawesi to investigate community-based water resource management projects and see the impacts of extractive industries on water resources. The three types of resource extraction that are predominant on Sulawesi are mineral extraction, timber-based concessions and plantations (including for palm oil). In the small town of Soroako on the island, Toronto-based Inco (now Vale Canada Ltd.) has been operating a massive nickel mining and smelting operation since the 1970s. This mine has prompted concerns about soil and water contamination and the displacement of the indigenous Karonsi’e Dongi peoples.

In 2012, the Blue Planet Project partnered with KruHa to produce the Our Right to Water: An Expose on Foreign Pressure to Derail the Human Right to Water in Indonesia report. It focused on the World Bank-imposed market-based water policies that have led to deep inequalities in access to water and sanitation in Indonesia. It demonstrated how water legislation introduced in 2004 contradicts a long history of respecting water as a commons in Indonesian tradition.

Based on this research mission, Karunananthan will be producing a new report on Indonesia in 2016.

The Blue Planet Project gratefully acknowledges the support of Public Services International, Unifor, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the United Steelworkers for this intervention.

Further reading
Blue Planet Project in Indonesia and South Korea (April 7, 2015)
Indonesian Court rules against World Bank water law (Feb. 20, 2015)
Blue Planet Project and KruHa together on the right to water (March 15, 2012)