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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Parents of Disaster Ferry Passengers Lash Out at Authorities

Twenty-nine bodies recovered from water but some 270 remain trapped on board More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

US congressional delegation initiates $84 million Agent Orange cleanup project More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid