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Cablegate: East Java Mud Flow Update: Presidential Fly-by Offers

VZCZCXRO2728
RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJS #0064/01 3030957
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 300957Z OCT 07
FM AMCONSUL SURABAYA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0090
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0031
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA 0082
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 0029
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHJS/AMCONSUL SURABAYA 0092

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SURABAYA 000064

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MTS AND EB/ESC/IEC
DEPT FOR DS/IS/EAP
DOE FOR CUTLER/PI-32 AND NAKANO/PI-42
COMMERCE FOR USDOC 4430

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EINV EPET ELAB ENRG PGOV ASEC ID
SUBJECT: EAST JAVA MUD FLOW UPDATE: PRESIDENTIAL FLY-BY OFFERS
VICTIMS LITTLE RELIEF

REF: A. Surabaya 61

B. Jakarta 1768
C. Surabaya 56

SURABAYA 00000064 001.2 OF 002


This message is sensitive, but unclassified. Please protect
accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary: President Yudhoyono's October 25 fly-by of the
Sidoarjo mud flow disaster and subsequent meeting with officials
at the Surabaya airport left displaced residents skeptical of
any significant action. Vice President Jusuf Kalla made similar
aerial observations on October 28 and announced that decreasing
mud flow volumes demonstrated that mitigation efforts are
"improving." With mud breaching earthen containment dams with
increasing frequency, the Porong river threatening to overflow
its banks, and transportation infrastructure crumbling, the
upcoming rainy season may quickly overwhelm efforts to mitigate
the continuing impact of this disaster. End Summary.

FLY-OVERS AND PRONOUNCEMENTS
--------------------------------------------- --

2. (SBU) Although originally scheduled to visit those displaced
by the Sidoarjo mud flow on his return from visiting evacuees
from the nearby Mt. Kelud volcano, President Yudhoyono (SBY)
settled for a helicopter fly-by of the disaster area on October
25. After his aerial tour, SBY met with Minister of Public
Works, Djoko Kirmanto, the Head of the Sidoarjo Mud Disaster
Management Board (BPLS) retired General Sunarso, East Java
Governor Imam Utomo, and Sidoarjo Regent Win Hendrarso in the
VVIP room at Surabaya's Juanda Airport. Following the meeting,
Minister Djoko told reporters that four conclusions had been
reached: the Governor and Regent would encourage victims to
accept Lapindo's offer of 20% compensation; the Regent would
develop a clear payment schedule for the remaining 80%; the mud
would continue to be channeled into the Porong River; and BPLS
would be issued operational funds of Rp 500 billion (USD 55
million) from the state budget. (Note: Presidential Decree
14/2007 set the deadline for full compensation payments from
Lapindo for May 2008, two years after the disaster began.)

3. (SBU) After an October 28 helicopter ride over the mud-flow
site, Vice President Jusuf Kalla told reporters that the mud
flow rate was decreasing thus demonstrating improvement in mud
flow management. According Kalla, as reported by the Antara
News, the mud flow rate has decreased from a high of 150,000
cubic meters/day to 60,000 cubic meters/day. Kalla added that
Lapindo and the government were working together to resolve the
problem, pointing to efforts to direct the mud into the river as
an example. He emphasized that Lapindo and the government were
now focused on completing the compensation payments.

PORONG RIVER SLOWING
------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Despite the laudatory comments from the President and
Vice President, the decision to mitigate the mud flow by pushing
the mud into the Porong river has created its own problems.
Because of mud sedimentation, according to Tempo Interaktif, the
river's depth has decreased from seven meters to just one meter.
As a result, the water flow rate has slowed from 1,500 cubic
meters/second to just 500 cubic meters/second, raising fears
about upstream flooding after the rainy season starts in
November. According to Surya newspaper, nearby villagers have
begun complaining that water from the Porong has started to leak
into their houses. BPLS is employing five dredgers and
excavators in an effort to push the mud sedimentation
downstream.

THREATENED INFRASTRUCTURE
-----------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Increasingly frequent breaches of the containment dams
(Ref A) are threatening surrounding transportation
infrastructure. According to the Jawa Pos, the Indonesian
Railroad Company (PT KAI) has been straightening rail lines in
the Siring area that are buckling as a result of subsidence. PT
KAI has also reportedly asked BPLS to build drainage canals to
prevent water from the mud ponds from flowing onto the tracks.
BPLS has been working to increase the height of the dam which
protects both the railroad and the Porong road from nine to 12
meters. Water collecting on the Jatirejo mud pond is now just
10 cm below the top of the dam. BPLS estimates that the land is

SURABAYA 00000064 002.2 OF 002


subsiding two to 20 cm each day throughout the containment
complex.

6. (SBU) According to the Jawa Pos, the Sidoarjo regency
government intends to complete purchases of 75% of the land
needed to relocate critical infrastructure by the end of the
year. A "fair price" and a mechanism for purchasing the land
have yet to be determined. The government will need to purchase
a corridor 10 kms long and 120 meters wide to accommodate the
relocated infrastructure. It remains unclear how concerns about
an ever-widening area of subsidence will affect relocation plans.

NO COMMENT FROM VICTIMS
--------------------------------------

7. (SBU) Evacuees living in the Porong Market for the past year
had no comment on recent developments. A contact at the market
told the Consulate that reaction was muted because SBY had not
visited as scheduled and expectations for government action were
low. SBY has now made two fly-overs, but never visited the
mud-flow site or the market. On June 24, SBY hosted an
emotional visit by mud-flow victims at the Presidential Palace
and promised funding for infrastructure and resettlement. There
is little evidence that any money has been dispersed. (Ref B)
Our contact added that 20 families from Renokenongo village,
displaced by the collapse of Dam 42 (Ref C), had moved into the
market, bringing the total back up to approximately 2,500 people.
MCCLELLAND

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