The watershed from the Batang Toru dam flows between a V-shaped river bank. (JG Photo/Andra Filemon)

Batang Toru Hydroelectric Dam Equipped With Comprehensive Risks Mitigation Plan

BY : ANDRA FILEMON

MAY 22, 2019

Batang Toru, North Sumatra. The Batang Toru dam and hydroelectric power plant in North Sumatra have a complete plan to mitigate a wide range of risks from earthquakes and flood to environmental impact on indigenous animal habitats. 
 
The government sanctioned the project under a $1.6 billion public-private partnership scheme to provide 510 megawatts of power to Sumatra.

But the project, built on 650 hectares of woodland near Batang Toru forest, also draws some concerns over safety, especially its resilience to natural disaster and environmental sustainability. 
 
Hadi Susilo, a member of the Indonesian National Committee for Large Dam (Inacold), said he is confident the Batang Toru Hydroelectric Power Plant will resist earthquake and is unlikely to break from the shocks.

The downstream area of Batang Toru River is also safe from flash flood risks, Hadi said. 
 
"It's a large dam, but functions as a daily retention dam, not a reservoir. The puddle area is only 90 hectares," he said. 
 
"There are four doors. Three function as release doors and to flush sediments. Another one located higher functions as a conduit pipe. From this door the water will flow continuously every day for 24 hours," he said. 
 
There are also no residents living along the 13.5-kilometer riverbank behind the dam.   
 
"The watershed after the dam is a V-shaped river bank, so it is very steep and no residents live there anymore. Even large animals do not live on the sharp slope surface," Hadi said. 
 
The dam, according to Hadi, will provide improve flow on the river and will not dry up the water for people living in the downstream area. 
 
"Before the construction of the hydropower plant, there was frequent flooding in the downstream area," Hadi said.
 
Most of the lowland areas in Batang Toru have been opened for farms and plantations. The community is very dependent on the forest as their main source of water and for flood and erosion protection.
 
"Will [the dam] affect water flow on the Batang Toru River? Yes, absolutely, but not by significant amount because along the 13.5-kilometer river, after the dam and the power plant, there are nine tributaries that flow into the river. So the water discharge is maintained and not much reduced," Hadi said. 
 
Firman Taufick, the vice president of communications and social affairs of North Sumatra Hydropower Energy, the company behind the project, said the company is committed to maintaining the sustainability of the Batang Toru forest area. The forest is an integral part of the supply of natural water for hydropower plants. 
 
"The hydropower plant is very dependent on water and earth's gravity. How can it be said that hydropower destroys ecosystems, while a hydropower plant relies heavily on ecosystems and especially forests to provide water? Water is the main resource of hydropower. It would be difficult to imagine if the upstream zone of the river has environmental degradation; the water will dry up and the plant will not get enough of it," Firman said.
 
The company has carried out the Environmental, Social, Health and Impact Assessment (ESHIA) studies to look for the best way to preserve the forest and minimize the project's impact on local wildlife, including the endangered Tapanuli orangutan, Firman said. 

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