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

Multimedia Obama, Modi Announce Breakthrough on Nuclear Deal

update Deal resolves differences over liability of suppliers to India in event of a nuclear accident, U.S. demands on tracking whereabouts of material supplied to country More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track 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.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid