Category: Business

Sporting chance for change

As the Asian Games winds down on Sunday, residents of Jakarta and Palembang – the two co-hosting cities – are wondering what will become of their cities after all the hype and massive revamping and construction of sports venues and infrastructure leading up to event is over.

In notoriously gridlocked Jakarta, commuters have been enjoying reduced traffic and faster travel time as the odd-even licence plate policy has been expanded to more roads for the duration of the games, which end on Sept 2. Private cars with odd-numbered plates can only use those roads on odd-numbered dates, with even-numbered plates allowed on even-numbered dates only.

The policy was expanded to ensure that it would take no more than 30 minutes for Asian Games athletes to travel from the athletes’ village to the main sports venues in the city.

Some residents are happy with the significantly reduced traffic congestions, especially those who use public transport and are often stuck in buses and taxis with fast-running meters.

“It would be good to continue the odd-even plates restrictions and make them permanent. The traffic is much smoother now and we have much less congested roads and intersections, especially when traveling with Transjakarta buses,” Bernadetta Febriana, a resident of South Jakarta said, referring to the city’s main network of public buses.

The Indonesian capital has undergone a dramatic revamp with less than the usual amount of time to prepare to stage the 18th Asian Games, the second-biggest multi sports event after the Olympics.

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Indonesian contingent at the opening of the 18th Asian Games at the Gelora Bung Karno (GBK) sports complex, Jakarta, Saturday, (18/8). Photo: INASGOC/Ridhwan Siregar

Hanoi was awarded the games in 2012 but withdrew in 2014 citing lack of preparation and financial capability. The Olympics Council of Asia appointed Jakarta and Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra province to co-host the games, although some venues are located on the outskirts of Jakarta in neighboring Banten and West Java provinces. This is the second time that Jakarta has played host to the games. The last time was in 1962.

Urban planning expert Nirwono Joga said the city needed the momentum that an event such as the Asiad can create as a spur to undertake a major revamp and speed up infrastructure development.

“Apparently it is doable, financially and time-wise but it needs a boost to speed it up such as hosting a major event like the Asian Games. We can do it in just a few years and even in months,” he said.

In preparation for the 1962 games, the Indonesian government started construction in 1960 of the Bung Karno sports complex, where the main venues are located. It also built the Selamat Datang (welcome) statue at the roundabout, in front of the Hotel Indonesia – the first international standard hotel in the capital, which was also built to accommodate the Asiad athletes, officials and guests.

For this year’s games, the number of Transjakarta buses has been increased to anticipate those traveling without private cars due to the odd-even policy. The city’s main thoroughfares now have wider sidewalks for pedestrians to encourage more people to get around by walking.

Joga said this would be the right moment to get more people walking from one point to another, reduce the use of private vehicles and increase the use of public transport.

“But we will need more expanded and walkable sidewalks for that. We can’t tell people to take public transport if there are no safe and comfortable sidewalks for people to walk on after they get off the buses,” he added.

“The city administration should continue revamping sidewalks in other parts of the city, and not just in the main thoroughfares for foreign visitors’ eyes,” he said.

Also noteworthy have been efforts to reduce the foul smell emanating from the Sentiong River – nicknamed Kali Item or Black River for its black, heavily polluted water – which is close to the athletes’ villages in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta.

The river was sprayed with an odour neutralizer in order to improve the atmosphere for the international athletes staying in the village.

“So apparently there is a technology to reduce the river’s pungent smell but we are only moved to use it just because we are hosting the games. Why didn’t we try to use it earlier?” Joga asked rhetorically.

“We should not stop here and instead use this event as a momentum to continue cleaning the river and make the city more livable even when the games are over,” Joga added.

Changes in the capital, in his view, could motivate other cities across the country to do the same to create a more livable environment for their residents.

What happens in the capital city reverberates all over Indonesia, he said, citing the news about the dismantling of a pedestrian bridge in downtown Jakarta and its replacement with a zebra crossing for pedestrians. President Joko Widodo tried out the crossing with Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan as news camera clicked away.

“It is only a few meters long but it generated nationwide publicity, even though the original aim of dismantling the bridge was more for aesthetic purposes instead of promoting walking as a means to get from one point to another,” he said.

The governor said the bridge was dismantled because it blocked people coming from the city’s north side to view the Selamat Datang statue, one of the city’s most famous landmarks.

“Let’s not stop making the city more civilised and amenable to modern living just after the games. It is time to view fixing the city’s problems with the perspective of a modern metropolis, instead of the perspective of a big village as we have been doing all this time,” Joga said,

The city has also built more sports venues to stage the games and rebuilt the outdated velodrome and equestrian park to meet modern, international standards.

Danny Buldansyah, the spokesman for the Indonesia Asian Games 2018 Organizing Committee (Inasgoc) said that despite the limited time available to prepare for an event as big and complex as the Asiad, Indonesia has managed to pull it off. The various sports competitions, which began on Aug 18, have been running smoothly so far with generally positive reviews from athletes, officials and spectators.

“We had to build more venues, such as hockey and volleyball stadiums, just three months prior to the games, because we had later confirmation of more participants in certain sports,” he said.

He acknowledged concerns about what will happen next to the venues for less popular sports such as the equestrian park and how to maintain them and keep them useful.

“They will be managed in a partnership with private entities for other commercial uses,” he said.

“We are also confident now that the equestrian park has met international standards, it could be hosting more international equestrian competitions in the future,” Buldansyah said.

According to him, Indonesia has experienced an influx of roughly 25 million people consisting of athletes, sports officials, VIPs and foreign journalists for the games in Jakarta and Palembang.

“We have more people visiting for the games compared to the number of people in the 2014 Asiad in Incheon. It is a sign of their trust in us to host the games,” he added.

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Newly-renovated Jakarta International Equestrian Park in East Jakarta set to stage three competitions for the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

Muslim residents living within a one-kilometer radius from the equestrian park in East Jakarta had to adjust their Eid Al Adha festivities, which fell on Aug 22. The Eid Al Adha celebration is a time when Muslims donate cattle or goats for slaughter as sacrifice and the meat is donated to the poor.

An order passed by the governor in 2017 put a restriction on the seasonal trade of cattle within the area, and 35 mosques within the restricted zone are forbidden to slaughter the sacrificial animals, in compliance with the international regulation that the area within a kilometer from the equestrian park should be an equine disease free zone.

A caretaker at the Al Hurriyah mosque in Pulo Asem neighborhood near the park said congregation members were aware of the restriction and have complied to it by donating their animals to be sacrificed elsewhere.

”For many of us here, the Asian Games is a once in a lifetime event, so we don’t mind with this restriction because we want to take part in supporting the games,” Purnomo said.

The story was first published in Bangkok Post

Paws up: Indonesian government to ban dog and cat meat trade

Fien Harini, who hails from Solo in Central Java, still remembers when Ireng, her mongrel pet dog, disappeared and never returned home.

“I cried for days. In Solo, when a pet dog doesn’t return home, you can be sure the dog is stolen to be slaughtered for meat and will end up in one of those dog meat satay stalls,” she said.

“Dog meat dishes purported to boost virility and have healing qualities are popular delicacies in Solo. But there is not enough supply so pet dogs, especially mongrels, are highly targeted by poachers,” she added.

In Jakarta, meat derived from dogs is served in dishes offered by specialty eateries called lapo. Customers can identify such establishment if they see the number B1 – a code for dog meat – on the signage.

The trade of dog and cat meat remains rampant in some parts of Indonesia, where dog meat dishes are traditional delicacies for some ethnic and cultural groups. However, dog and cat meat are not included among consumable meat products regulated by the country’s food law.

Roughly 7% of Indonesia’s 260 million population consume dog meat, according to an estimate drawn by the Dog Meat Free Indonesia (DMFI) coalition, which has investigated the illegal trade. It is campaigning to abolish dog meat trade, end animal cruelty, promote animal welfare and halt the spread of zoonotic diseases.

Its effort appears to be gaining ground, as the government has said it plans to issue a regulation that will ban dog meat and other meat derived from cats and exotic animals.

A national forum on animal welfare held in Jakarta earlier this month agreed that dog meat is not for human consumption and its commercial distribution should be banned.

Syamsul Ma’arif, director of veterinary public health at the agriculture ministry, said a ministerial regulation to that effect was in the pipeline

“The regulation will emphasise on banning practices that are violations of animal welfare. It will not regulate consumption so much for those whose culture that recognize it,” Ma’arif said.

He added that it would take some time to finalize the regulation since it will have to accommodate many interests, but he expects the ministry to issue it within this year.

DMFI representatives who attended the forum played a video made during their country-wide investigation into the cruelty behind the dog meat trade, which shows just how bad the dogs are treated.

Ma’arif acknowledged the way dogs are handled in the trade amounts to “torture.” He also said the government clearly forbids consumption of dog meat.

He told officials of veterinary and livestock agencies attending the forum that animal cruelty and the risk of zoonotic disease outbreaks from the illegal meat trade could drive animal rights-conscious foreign tourists away from their regions if they continue to allow this practice.

This could be detrimental to the government’s efforts to lure more foreign tourists to improve state revenue.

The prospect of a government crackdown was hailed by DMFI, which comprises local and international animal rights groups including Animal Friends Jogja (AFJ), Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN), Four Paws, Change for Animals Foundation and Humane Society International.

“This is a huge leap for animal welfare in Indonesia. We really appreciate that government has finally acknowledged our concerns,” AFJ director Bobby Fernando said.

JAAN co-founder Karin Franken said it was high time that the trade was abolished since its existence undermines the government’s pledge to eliminate fatal zoonotic diseases such as rabies by 2020.

While Jakarta has been declared rabies-free, the disease is endemic in 25 out of Indonesia’s 34 provinces.

She said however, there is a steady supply of dog meat to lapos in the capital city. They source the meat from a supplier who goes twice a week to catch stray dogs and kidnap pets in neighboring towns in West Java.

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Photo: Dog Meat Free Indonesia (DMFI)

As the meat trade is illegal, the whole process of preparing dog meat dishes in those restaurants goes unchecked without proper health screening, slaughter process and carcass disposal.

“The supplier can bring 30 to 40 dogs per trip into Jakarta. This could put the city on the risk of rabies outbreak,” she said.

A dog meat supplier in East Jakarta who goes only by one name, Yuri, said he priced dog meat by the kilogramme. He declined to say what he charged but said that it was competitive prices quoted by another supplier in Central Jakarta.

Wiwiek Bagja, a senior veterinarian and former chairwoman of the Indonesian Veterinary Association, said the government should stress to regional governments that they have an obligation to enforce national legislation on animal welfare.

Despite the absence of specific regulation banning inter-regional dog meat distribution, she said local administrations should strictly supervise such movement to curb the spread of zoonotic diseases.

“Unstipulated and unspecified movement of dogs is proven to have contaminated rabies-free regions,” she said.

“There is a much bigger risk of zoonosis epidemic compared to the mythical benefits of eating dog meat. We can’t let the interest of a small fraction of people to spoil the country,” she added.

Dog meat consumer Kristian Purnomo opposes the pending regulation, saying dog meat dishes are a long-standing tradition and part of Indonesia’s diverse cultures that should not be abolished.

He eats dog meat dishes, which he says warms his body and have softer texture. He also consumes other exotic foods such as snake meat from time to time, especially when he travels to regions where they are part of the local diet.

“We just have to be discreet about it. I understand that people object to it because dogs are cute and cuddly pets and are not livestock. I love dogs and have a pet dog, too,” he said. 

“But what about chicken, cows, and other livestock? Will people campaign against eating them when someday they are not categorised as livestock and considered as cute pets?” Purnomo said, adding that to him a dog meat dish when served is just like any other dish from chicken or cattle.

The campaign against dog meat consumption, he said, could undermine deeply rooted local traditions, citing efforts by one NGO to abolish centuries-old traditional whaling in Lamalera, a coastal village in Lembata Island in East Nusa Tenggara province.

The island’s land is mainly vast savanna and not suitable for farming, so villagers have turned to the sea for subsistence. Whaling there is steeped in a set of customary rules, such as a restriction on hunting pregnant whales.

“Let’s just appreciate it with discretion accordingly as a local tradition,” he added.

This story was first published in Bangkok Post

Indonesia to allow tariff-free import of Palestinian dates, olive oil

Indonesia and Palestine have signed an agreement that will allow for zero tariffs on some Palestinian goods imported into Indonesia from next month.

The agreement serves as the implementing guidelines that follows the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita and his Palestinian counterpart on the sidelines of the 11th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, last December. The MoU allows zero import tariffs for certain goods between the two countries.

“It will be one-way trade from Palestine to Indonesia at the start, but we expect in the future it will be a two-way trade,” the Trade Ministry’s Director General for International Trade Negotiations Iman Pambagyo said.

The initial Palestinian products that will be exempted from import tariffs are fresh and dried dates and virgin olive oil. Pambagyo said that, during the first year of the agreement, dates imported from Palestine are estimated to increase by 11.62 percent, while olive oil is estimated to jump by 172 percent, as a lot of Indonesian cosmetic manufacturers use olive oil as an ingredient in their products.

“We will encourage our importers to benefit from this policy by sourcing their olive oil and dates from Palestine,” Pambagyo added.

Fachry Thaib, head of the Middle East Committee at the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, said the business community welcomed the agreement and its upcoming implementation.

“We have always encouraged the government to expedite the MoU implementation. This policy would be beneficial for importers since it would make the products more competitive in the domestic market,” he said.

He added the policy will not hit other imported goods, given the big market opportunities for dates, which are widely consumed by Indonesians.

Lukita and Palestinian Ambassador to Indonesia Zuhair Al-Shun signed the agreement on Monday following the ratification of the MoU into a presidential regulation in April.

The finance minister will allow the MoU to fully take effect by issuing two ministerial regulations — on import tariff waivers for Palestinian products and on the technical direction for customs offices to execute the policy.

Pambagyo said these regulations will be circulated to all ports of entry so that customs officers can identify products from Palestine and exempt them from any import duties.

Lukita said this policy was part of Indonesia’s unwavering support for the Palestinian issue, which has always been the focus of its foreign policy.

Indonesia has been a staunch supporter of Palestinian independence and has pledged to focus on voicing support for Palestine during its tenure as a non-permanent member at the UN Security Council in 2019-2020.

Read the full story in Arab News

Koko shirt inspired by Black Panther movie flies off the rack in Indonesia ahead of Eid

Clothing outlets in Tanah Abang Market in central Jakarta have been cashing in on the trend for koko shirts inspired by a garment worn by T’Challa, the main character in the movie “Black Panther,” which made history in Saudi Arabia as the first to open in a cinema in 35 years.

The long-sleeve, low-collar koko shirt, which is normally worn by Indonesian Muslim men when they go to mosque, attend Qur’an recital or on other special occasions, is in high demand these days as Indonesians go on a shopping spree during Ramadan and ahead of the Eid celebration at the end of this week.

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Garment manufacturers in the busy textile market have been quick to grab the opportunity by producing koko shirts displaying a similar silver motif to the black attire that T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, wore in the movie. T’Challa, aka Black Panther, is the leader of the African kingdom of Wakanda.

When asked if the Black Panther-inspired koko shirt was in high demand, Didi, a vendor of Muslim clothing in Tanah Abang Market, said: “Check out the Internet and you’ll see how it’s trending.”

“It started to become a trend before Ramadan after the film was screened, so we have been producing the shirt in our garment factory,” he said.

Since then his store, which is located in Block A of Southeast Asia’s largest textile and clothing retail market, has been selling and shipping Black Panther koko shirts in large quantities.

A quick browse through the market, with its throngs of shoppers and bulk buyers, showed that some vendors who sell Muslim clothing were displaying the Black Panther koko shirt in its original color, black, along with other colors such as white, blue, grey and light green — although the motif emblazoned on the shirt was the same.

Vendors said they had prepared large quantities in stock ahead of Ramadan, but claimed that they had run out of stock earlier than expected as people began to shop for Eid festivities this weekend.

One vendor, Juanda, said other koko shirts carried slightly different motifs, but were still inspired by T’Challa’s attire. “Garment factories in Surabaya, Bandung started to produce the shirts after the film hit the theaters,” he said.

The shirts are now also widely available through online marketplaces such as Tokopedia, Shopee, Lazada and Instagram.

Some retailers on Tokopedia, however, have put up notices telling buyers they have run out of the Black Panther koko shirts.

Ikram Putra, a 35-year-old social media specialist, was quick to grab one ahead of Eid. “It’s trending, happening, inspired by a popular movie and affordable. I bought it for 80,000 rupiah ($5.70) in one of the online marketplaces.

“I like it because the motif is different and more hip than the usual dad koko shirts.”

The Black Panther-inspired attire is not reserved for men only. The motif is also available on a children’s size shirt, with matching peci or traditional head cap for children, and on a black gamis (dress) for women.

Sumiyati and her 8-year-old son Heru Prakasa had to scout several stores in Tanah Abang before finding the shirt that Heru wanted.

“Other stores we asked earlier only had other colors available, but Heru wanted to have the black one, just like in the movie,” she said.

Lenni Tedja, a fashion observer and director of Jakarta Fashion Week, said while fashions can come from anywhere, trends can be particularly widespread when inspired by a movie.

“Especially if it is a box-office movie, so it has a big impact to generate trends and boost demand for items related to that movie,” she said.

Read the full story in Arab News

 

Plans for holy land tour in limbo as Israel imposes blanket ban on Indonesian visitors

Sally Piri’s plan to take her mother on a tour of the holy sites in the occupied West Bank this year may be put on hold after Israel’s recent move to ban Indonesian passport holders from entering the territory.

She had planned to go with her mother in November and has already paid for the tour, which includes visits to Bethlehem, Jericho, Nazareth and Caesarea, when she read the news that Israel had issued policy starting on June 10 that bans Indonesians to enter Israel.

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“I really hope the policy will change so tourists like us who want to go on pilgrimage tours can still go. My travel agent told me they are still waiting for results of negotiations between their local partners and the authorities in Israel to have the policy revoked,” Sally said.

“My mother said she has been everywhere and now she just wants to go to the holy land,” she added.

Syuhelmaidi Syukur, a senior vice president of Jakarta-based humanitarian group Aksi Cepat Tanggap, said the ban will not disrupt the group’s humanitarian assistance for people in Palestine.

“We have rarely sent our own humanitarian workers there for the past two years, so we distribute our aid with the help of our local partners and fellow humanitarian groups in Gaza and Jerusalem,” he said.

Last week’s blanket ban for Indonesian tourists was, according to media reports, a tit-for-tat response to Indonesia’s decision to suspend visas already issued to Israeli citizens, suggesting that the visa cancellation was Indonesia’s response to the violence in Gaza in which Israeli soldiers killed dozens of Palestinians and injured thousands during recent protests to mark the Nakba.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said last week that Israel had been trying to reverse Indonesia’s decision but to no avail, which resulted in Israel reciprocating the move.

Indonesian Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly confirmed on Friday that there were 53 Israeli nationals who had been denied visas to enter Indonesia.

“It was a clearing (house) decision that we have to carry out. We can’t disclose the reason because it’s a sensitive matter. It is our sovereign right to accept or reject visa (applications) from other countries,” Laoly told journalists at the Foreign Ministry.

Indonesia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel but an Israeli passport holder can still get an Indonesian visa through the “calling visa” mechanism which is available for citizens of nations with which Indonesia has no diplomatic relations.

The calling visa application is reviewed and granted by a clearing house which involves a number of government agencies with the Foreign Ministry at the lead, and the conditions applied to a calling visa holder are very restrictive.

Both Laoly and Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi denied there had been initial talks about diplomatic relations between Indonesia and Israel or the possibility of Indonesia granting free visas to Israeli nationals.

“Indonesia continues to be with Palestine in their struggle for independence and their rights. Our foreign policy to take sides with Palestine is very clear,” Marsudi said.

The story first appeared in Arab News

Indonesia slapped Facebook with second warning letter over data leak

Facebook was slapped on Tuesday with a second warning letter by Indonesia’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology for having improperly shared Indonesian data users with political consultant Cambridge Analytica.

In a statement posted on its website, the ministry said it warned Facebook again in the letter, which was signed by the ministry’s Information Applications Director General Semuel Pangerapan, to explain the ministry how personal information from over a million Indonesian users have been used by a third-party application on Facebook.

The ministry gave Facebook the first warning letter during a meeting on Thursday, when Indonesia’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology Rudiantara summoned the company’s representatives to his office, after Facebook disclosed in a blog post on Wednesday that a large number of Indonesian users’ data had been shared with Cambridge Analytica.

In the meeting, Rudiantara said he asked them to provide the ministry with their audit results to see how personal information of Indonesian users have been used and asked Facebook to block third-party applications from accessing Indonesian users’ personal data.

Rudiantara said he already got in touch with Facebook representatives in Indonesia when initial reports of Cambridge Analytica scandal emerged and gave them verbal warning over possible data breach of Indonesian users.

He called for Indonesian users to “temporarily fast from using social media. If they really have to use it, please be really careful when sharing personal data.”

According to the chart in the post, written by Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer, Indonesia and two other Southeast Asian countries the Philippines and Vietnam are among the top ten countries whose citizens’ personal data may have been harvested for Cambridge Analytica’s inappropriate use.

The chart shows data of 1.75 million users in the Philippines, which is second to US users, could have been leaked, followed by Indonesia as third most-affected with more than a million users. Vietnam’s some 427,000 users, which ranked ninth in the chart, are believed to have also been affected.

Rudiantara said he has asked police to probe alleged violations of electronic information and transactions law on the misuse of Indonesia users’ data. If Facebook is found guilty of violations, its representatives in Indonesia could face a maximum 12 years in prison and a fine of up to 12 billion Indonesian rupiah.

A Facebook spokesperson said they are strongly committed to protecting people’s information, and intend to make all the same privacy controls and settings available everywhere. They also said it has recently taken significant steps to make their privacy tools easier to find, restrict data access on Facebook, and make their terms and data policy clearer.

The spokesperson said the company believes these changes will better protect people’s information and they will keep the community updated as they make more change, and continue to work with privacy and information commissioners, and authorities, in Indonesia.

Indonesians are among the world’s most active social media users, consistently remain among the top five countries with the largest number Facebook users.

A survey conducted from Oct. to Nov. 2017 by the Indonesian Internet Service Providers Association and the Indonesian Telecommunications Society showed Facebook is the second most popular social media applications on smartphones, according to 66.5 percent respondents, after Instagram which is owned by Facebook, with 82.6 percent respondents.

The survey was conducted across the country, involving 1,020 respondents, more than half were high school and university students, followed by professionals and entrepreneurs.

The survey also showed 79 percent respondents object to having their personal data being transferred to another party without their consent. Almost all respondents, or 98 percent, said they acknowledged personal data shared online should be protected and that the government should issue a legislation regulating protection of personal data shared online.

Rudiantara said this data leak case calls for a momentum for lawmakers to start deliberating a government-sponsored personal data protection bill and pass it into law. In the absence of such a law, data protection is currently guaranteed by a 2016 ministerial decree.

He added despite the importance of having personal data protection law, the bill had failed to be listed in the House of Representatives’ 2018 National Legislation Program.

“I hope this users’ data breach case could push for the bill to be eventually included in this year’s national legislation program,” he said.

This story has been updated from its original version in Arab News

Indonesian braces for greater environmental damage as oil slick widens

Indonesian authorities have launched a massive cleanup operation off the coast of Balikpapan, the provincial capital of East Kalimantan, where an oil slick from a ruptured undersea pipeline has sprawled to 20,000 hectares, contaminating mangrove forest and marine life.

Satellite images from state space agency LAPAN showed in just two days since the initial oil slick was detected on Mar. 31, the spill has sprawled to 13,559 hectare on Apr. 2 from 12,987 hectare on the previous day.

According to the Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Ministry, by Apr. 5 the spill has sprawled to 20,000 hectares, Kompas newspaper reported.

“Now it would take months to recover from the environmental damage,” Arifsyah Nasution, a marine campaigner from Greenpeace Indonesia said.

Environmental activists in Balikpapan have team up to collect evidence and assess the environmental damage, which Nasution said the public can later use as a comparison to assessment made by government agencies.

Balikpapan city administration has declared a state of emergency as locals’ livelihoods suffer. The oil spill claimed the lives of five fishermen when it ignited on fire on Mar. 31 and killed at least an Irrawaddy dolphin, a rare and protected species.

State-owned oil company Pertamina, which at first denied the leak was its fault, acknowledged that the spill had come from its undersea pipelines, located 22 to 26 meters below the sea.

“The crude oil leaked from one of the pipelines that was dragged more than 100 meter from its location,” Yudi Nugraha, a spokesman for Pertamina operations in Balikpapan said.

The company said the steel pipelines, which distribute crude oil from the Lawe-Lawe Terminal to its refinery in Balikpapan are 20 years old and that only external forces can dragged them as far as 100 meter.

Greenpeace’s Nasution said the crisis could have been minimized if Pertamina had responded more quickly.

The Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry said the likely culprit is a Panama-flagged coal ship that dropped its anchor in Balikpapan Bay, dragging one of the pipelines and causing it to rupture.

The ministry’s oil and gas director general Djoko Siswanto said ships are not permitted to drop anchor on that part of the bay where the pipelines are installed.

Environmental and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar has dispatched ministry officials to Balikpapan, an oil and mining hub in the island of Borneo, to spearhead the cleanup effort and to assess the adverse impact on the bay’s ecosystem and biodiversity. Pertamina has deployed 15 cleaning vessels.

Siti Nurbaya said the ministry team will measure the length of the coastline impacted by the spill. They found that it has so far polluted 34 hectare mangrove wetlands in Kariangau village and 6,000 mangrove trees in another village.

“We have asked Pertamina to prioritize cleaning the oil slick in waters close to human settlements to get rid of the oil’s nauseating smell and other imminent health hazards,” Siti Nurbaya said.

The team also collected oil booms, or temporary floating barriers, from oil companies operating in the region to contain the oil spill and by late Wednesday, the team has collected up to 70 meter cubic oil slick.

“We are coordinating with the police, which will launch a criminal investigation into the case. The forestry ministry will assist in determining the loss suffered by locals and the compensation for those affected,” Rasio Ridho Sani, forestry ministry’s director general for law enforcement said.

Octavinus, a search and rescue official in Balikpapan said locals began to see oil slick floating on the waters on Mar. 31 midnight and it was sparked on fire before noon, burning two fishing boats.

An operation was immediately dispatched to rescue the fishermen and by Apr. 3,  Octavianus said they found one of the boats completely burned and all bodies of five fishermen killed in the fire.

“A coal barge with 20 crew on board was sailing by but the barge was only slightly damaged and the whole crew is safe,” he said.

The original story was published in Arab News