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Cablegate: East Java Mudflow Update: Rains Threaten Dams, yet Clear

VZCZCXRO3088
RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJS #0006 0160448
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 160448Z JAN 08
FM AMCONSUL SURABAYA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0140
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0064
RUEHDT/AMEMBASSY DILI 0007
RUEHCAA/GEOLOGICAL SURVEY DEPT OF INTERIOR WASHINGTON DC
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA 0126
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0020
RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 0062
RUEHJS/AMCONSUL SURABAYA 0143

UNCLAS SURABAYA 000006

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MTS, EAP/MLS, INR/EAP, EB/ESC/IEC
DOE FOR CUTLER/PI-32 AND NAKANO/PI-42
COMMERCE FOR USDOC 4430

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EPET ENRG PGOV ASEC ID
SUBJECT: EAST JAVA MUDFLOW UPDATE: RAINS THREATEN DAMS, YET CLEAR
THE RIVER; KAPOLDA PUTS CRIMINAL CASE ON HOLD


This message is sensitive but unclassified. Please protect
accordingly.

1. The same monsoon rains that weakened and broke a dam at the
Sidoarjo mud flow site January 3 have paradoxically improved the
flow of the Porong river, clearing it of sedimentation.
Sidoarjo Mud Management Agency (BPLS) Deputy of Operations, Mr.
Soffian Hadi told ConGen Surabaya that there is no longer excess
mud sedimentation in the Porong River. Soffian added that
previous mud sedimentation had reduced the flow rate of the
Porong to only 400 meters cubic per second. Rain increased the
flow to 939 cubic meters per second in December and (as of this
week) to 1,600 cubic meters per second-- its normal rate of
flow. BPLS spokesman Zulkharin told reporters that the
increased flow rate is damaging the levee that contains the
Porong, requiring the BPLS to make repairs.

2. Sedimentation of the Porong was most severe during the dry
season (May-October). With no rain and a lack of upstream
pressure, mud quickly precipitated to the river bottom. This
caused concern regarding the ability of the river to clear the
mud poured into it in sufficient quantity to prevent flooding
inhabited areas along the river. Currently, as the mud flows
out of the ground, it is combined with river water in a holding
lagoon; the mix is then pumped into the Porong on its way to the
sea. On January 10, BPLS used all its available pumps to
channel the mud into Porong River and the river successfully
handled the flow. Currently, the mud flows out of the
epicenter at roughly 1.2 cubic meters per second, while the
total capacity of three pumps is 3.6 cubic meter per second.
BPLS plans to install 15 new pumps to further increase the
capacity of the spill way.

3. Use of the river as a means of moving the mud continues to
be controversial with the local population. Consequently, some
200 officers from the East Java Police will help BPLS protect
the worksite in order to prevent any interference with
installation of the pumps, according to Soffian. Protests have
affected other efforts at the site (reftel). Local media report
that the main detour around the mud flow site continues to be
plagued with flooding due to almost daily heavy seasonal rains.
On January 10, the height of flood waters around Siring Village,
north of the mudflow containment reached 40 centimeters causing
serious traffic congestion. The height of floodwaters around
the railway tracks that border one side of the mud containment
reached 37 centimeters on the same day. However, despite
flooding and frequent traffic stoppages, this key route around
the mud containment remains open.

Police Put Criminal Case on Hold
------------------------------------------

4. The January 8-14 edition of Tempo magazine reported that
East Java's Regional Police Chief Inspector General Herman
Surjadi Sumawiredja (Kapolda) had announced to journalists in
late December 2007 that he had decided "to park" the case
against the Lapindo company "for the good of the public."
Although the police still believe that the mudflow was caused by
human error and negligence on the part of Lapindo, the Kapolda
claimed that putting pressure on Lapindo could jeopardize
compensation to the victims. The police are also concerned that
conflicting expert testimony about the cause of the disaster and
recent court decisions denying charges brought by the Indonesian
Legal Aid Foundation and the Indonesian Forum for the
Environment raised questions about their ability to secure a
conviction.

COMMENT:
-----------------

5. The conversation in East Java has shifted from how to stop
the mudflow to how to mitigate its impact. Like the mudflow
itself, this disaster has hit Indonesia along a series of weak
spots: political leadership, legal protections, weak
infrastructure, and corruption. Given the complexity of the
task, implementation of a successful long-term mitigation effort
will require leaders who can get beyond the political
maneuvering to address the problems head on. We look forward to
reading the USGS report based on the recent visit to Sidoarjo.

MCCLELLAND

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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