News / Asia

Indonesian Mud Volcano Marks 5 Years

A mud volcano erupted near the home of Isman five years ago, destroying his home and possessions.
A mud volcano erupted near the home of Isman five years ago, destroying his home and possessions.
Angela Dewan

A giant mud volcano that erupted five years ago (05/29/2006) near a gas drilling site in Indonesia is still spewing toxic sludge.  It has destroyed entire villages in eastern Java and scientists say it will continue to erupt for years to come.  

Isman feeds his chickens and cows behind his in-laws’ home in Gempolsari village.  The 56-year-old was once a builder, but now makes a modest living from his livestock.  Five years ago, a mud volcano erupted nearby and destroyed his home and possessions, as well as the local economy.  

As the volcano continues to spew toxic sludge and gas that pollutes the air, residents of the once active community of fishermen and factory workers have fled - Gempolsari is now a sleepy town.

Isman is just one of thousands of victims in Sidoarjo district still waiting for promised compensation.  He says that the gas drilling company believed to be responsible for the eruption owes him 30 percent of his $1,000.  He needs the money to rebuild his house and move on with his life. "I have been compensated for my home," Isman said, "but not my land.  I received a first payment of $500, and then $180 over six months."

A resident collects bricks near houses flooded by mud flows from a volcano in Porong, East Java Province May 29, 2009.
A resident collects bricks near houses flooded by mud flows from a volcano in Porong, East Java Province May 29, 2009.

The Sidoarjo mud volcano was at one time spewing enough sludge each day to fill 50 Olympic-size swimming pools, inundating 12 villages and seriously damaging others. M ore than 40,000 people have been displaced.

The government says the mudflow has finally slowed to 10,000 cubic meters of mud, water and gas a day,  and that at that rate the enormous lake of mud contained by dikes is far more manageable.

International scientists met recently in the nearby city of Surabaya to discuss the change in the volcano’s behavior.

A geologist with Durham University in Britain, Richard Davies, said in Surabaya the volcano’s pressure is diminishing.  But there a possibility the pressure could slowly build and cause an even bigger eruption.  He says the mud volcano is the most unpredictable in the world. “The way it's behaved is entirely unnatural, and it is in fact completely unique.  It has erupted continuously, pretty much, for five years. That is unheard of in natural mud volcano systems," he said.

The volcano originally erupted in a rice field near a gas drilling site owned by the company Lapindo Brantas.  Lapindo maintains the disaster was caused by an earthquake that occurred 280 kilometers away two days earlier.  But Davies and other geologists maintain the drilling caused the eruption. “What is interesting is that it kicked off a unique experiment, where a mud volcano developed over a period of five years rather than 5,000 or 10,000 years. So we have seen a mud volcano develop over a very very quick time span, and that is completely unique, and has never happened on earth in historical times," he said.

Although the company denies responsibility, it agreed to pay the victims in installments.  The company recently missed its deadline to make the final payment.

Hundreds of victims recently took to the streets of Sidoarjo to demand Lapindo shell out the remaining $140-million in compensation.

The crowd also objected to the company's plan to start a new drilling project this August, just two-and-a-half kilometers from the volcano.

Lapindo is owned by the Bakrie family, whose patriarch is Aburizal Bakrie, a business tycoon and member of the coalition government.  Bakrie has distanced himself from his family’s business since the disaster as he prepares to campaign for the presidency in 2014.

Aburizal Bakrie’s brother, Nirwan Bakrie, runs the family’s business empire, which owns coal, media and telecommunication companies.  Nirwan Bakrie blames the 2008 financial crisis for missing the payment deadlines and denies the company owes the victims any compensation at all. “I disagree with the perception of compensation because what we have done is we have agreed with the victims to buy their land, because they lived on land, which at that time they could not live anymore.  So we came together and agreed to buy their land.  And the price was given by them without any negotiation.  So we purchased the land," he said.

Ever since the eruption, authorities have been dredging the hot sludge into the river and out to sea - damaging the marine ecosystem and contaminating water.  Some scientists estimate the mud will keep flowing for 26 years, while others say it could go on for more than 80 years.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid