Imagine if a piece of heaven on earth, home to some of the rarest marine species, was at risk due to mining activities.
This is the case of the island of Bangka in North Sulawesi, set to be ravaged if Mikgro Metal Perdana’s plan to start mining iron ore there is not stopped.
Mobilization has been coming from inside and outside Bangka in an attempt to make the local government to take a firm stance against MMP.
Almost the entire population of the island is against the mine. As reported in Divemag Indonesia, 65-year-old coconut farmer William Hadinguang, is no exception.
“Some people think the mining plan will bring jobs and money,” William told Divemag.
“But I know that it will only bring destruction. The 15 percent of people who are pro-mining are looking for fast money. They don’t think of the future generations. What will they eat? Where will they live?”
Astonishment and disapproval was not limited to locals. Environmental lovers from around the world have joined the chorus of indignation.
Bangka lover Kaka, from the iconic Indonesian rock group Slank, started a petition at Change.org, addressed to North Sulawesi Governor Sinyo Harry Sarundajang and Sompie Singal, the deputy district head of North Minahasa, in which Bangka falls administratively, to stop the mining plan.
Kaka explained to Change.org how the first time he went to Bangka to dive, he fell in love. The unmistakable charm of the island brought him back repeatedly, and he said he knew well how the population and nature would suffer if the mining went ahead.
Open-pit mining on an island the size of Bangka would be catastrophic, not only to the rich biodiversity of the corals surrounding the island, but to the soil and water table on Bangka itself. It is because of this danger that Indonesia passed legislation in 2007 to protects coastal areas and small islands.
“Based on the regulations, any island with an area of less than 200,000 hectares cannot be mined,” Kaka said, as reported by Change.org. “And this is only 4,700 hectares! So the mining plan of MMP is obviously illegal!
“From the environmental point of view, the waste would be overwhelming, from the rivers to the sea. The coral reefs would be destroyed, and the fish will disappear. If the fish are gone, the fishermen will be gone too! Not to mention the tremendous amount of evictions that will happen, who knows to where,” the singer said.
“All your life you live in your home, then suddenly you’re forced to move and start all over again.”
Arief Aziz, the communications director at Change.org Indonesia, said it was important to get people involved in important causes, no matter where they were.
“It used to be much harder to know about, let alone support movements happening in rural and remote areas across Indonesia,” he said.
“With this campaign, we have a case where inhabitants of a small island in North Sulawesi have their home and livelihoods threatened. And now, we have a way to connect to them and mobilize support from anywhere in the country. If this succeeds, it can add to the already numerous beacons of hope, a precedent that when people voice out, be it online or offline, people in power have no choice but to listen,” Arief said.
Riyanni Djangkaru, a professional diver and editor in chief of DiveMag Indonesia, agreed on the importance of drawing attention to the issue in order to create awareness not only about the importance of preserving nature but also about how vital an eco-friendly economy was for the future of the local people.
“Profits that are gained from the mining industry are short-term and extremely destructive,” she said.
“There are other sustainable activities that can generate profit without destroying the environment, like fishing and ecotourism. These are activities that if developed carefully and in accordance with eco-friendly standards, give long-term economic profit for the island without hurting the environment.”
Riyanni added that mining on Bangka would certainly result in the destruction of other tourist sites nearby.
“If the water around the island of Bangka is polluted because of the mining activities, this will automatically lead to the damage of the sea and underwater species in famous tourist spots such as Bunaken and Lembeh.”
To prevent this, the campaigners are calling for immediate action.
Save Bangka Island
To sign the petition, go to: http://www.change.org/id/petisi