Jakarta. Activists have called on the Sleman district government in Yogyakarta to end illegal sand mining in villages near Mount Merapi, saying that the activities have been causing environmental damage in the area since the operations began last November.
“The mining activities are illegal. And they disrupt locals’ interests,” Yogyakarta’s executive director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) Halik Sandera told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday.
“Locals have been complaining about their dried wells. Their water supply has decreased despite the rainy season already being underway. This is because of the sand mining,” Halik said.
To protest against the mining activities, activists and thousands of local people held a rally blocking the road used by trucks to transport sand in Purwobinangun Village, Pakem subdistrict. At least 100 trucks were reportedly disrupted by the rally.
Halik said that the rally also sought to urge the district government to take firm action in handling the illegal activities.
“It is already our fourth rally today but the government has not done anything yet, either to respond to us, or to discipline those who cause damage to people’s land,” Halik said.
Tono, a local activist from Warga Peduli Merapi, said the illegal sand mining has severely eroded evacuation routes in the disaster-prone area.
“Every day, the supposed evacuation route is used by 500 trucks on average,” Tono was quoted as saying by Antaranews.com on Tuesday.
“There’s also potential for landslides, given that it is the rainy season now, because the mining activities have created many deep holes,” Tono added.
Walhi Yogyakarta said the mining has resulted in dozens of holes with a depth of 20 meters spread among the four villages of Purwobinangun, Wonokerto, Girikerto and Hargobinangun in Turi subdistrict.
These holes are suspected of having caused water wells in the area to dry up.
“The companies are operating on land that is suitable for agriculture. The land is also a catchment area to provide water, not only for Mount Merapi’s people, but also for Bantul and Yogyakarta,” Halik said.
Local residents claim that the illegal mining began when the normalization of the Boyong River ended in November last year.
The project was undertaken by the firm Balai Besar Wilayah Sungai Serayu-Opak on behalf of the Ministry of Public Works.
After the project’s completion, a number of unidentified firms allegedly started to use heavy equipment to illegally mine sand.
“For now, we have not yet obtained all the details of those firms. However, we managed to identify one of them as CV Multazam,” Halik said, without giving any further details.