Mudflow slipping beyond control

Government must hold Lapindo, affiliates and owners accountable

Press release - September 20, 2006
Nur Hidayati, Energy Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia said: “A Greenpeace team went to Sidoarjo to independently verify the extent of damage caused by the mud flow that is coming out of Lapindo’s well. They witnessed that the dikes created to contain the mud flow are being quickly filled with mud and that the threat to communities and to the environment around the disaster area is growing by the day. Greenpeace believes that this disaster is already slipping beyond control as temporary dikes constructed to contain the mud flow are likely to succumb to pressure from the boiling mud continuously coming out of the crater source.”

Aerial view of the mud gushing out of a Lapindo Brantas Inc. gas exploration well in Sidoarjo, East Java. According to Greenpeace, the situation is slipping beyond control and called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to hold Lapindo and its shareholders, Bakrie Group, Santos of Australia and Medco Group, fully accountable for one of Indonesia's worst industrial disaster.

Greenpeace is concerned that attempts to mitigate the flow of the mud will inevitably lead to long-term and irreversible impacts on the environment in the area, specifically on the nearby river and marine ecosystems.  The dumping of untreated mud and water into the aquatic environment is truly a regrettable outcome arising from a very desperate situation.  We also fear that given the nature and extent of this disaster, the underground water tables in and around the area of the mudflow , face the risk of  toxic contamination.

Greenpeace is calling on Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to hold Lapindo accountable for one of the worst industrial disasters in Indonesia. Specifically President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono must impose the following terms on Lapindo, its affiliates and owners:




    1)          Just Compensation for the 10,000 people who have lost their homes, lands, livelihoods and who suffer from health problems caused by the mud flow.  At the moment, the displaced live under appalling conditions in evacuation areas. There are reports that Lapindo is paying displaced residents a measly amount of $35 a month for living expenses, while offering about $550 to families to cover two years' rent.


    2)          Public access to real information. Lapindo never revealed company data used during the drilling operation nor the area’s geological composition and the risks involved in this particular  operation. In the same manner, there was an obvious failure of government oversight and regulation in ensuring that such drilling operations do not result in disasters like the one we are witnessing now. Instead of downplaying the impacts of this disaster, concerned government agencies should be made to account for this tragic regulatory failure.  

    3)          Containment and Mitigation measures should be established.  The Indonesian government must force Lapindo and the large conglomerates who own it (Bakrie Group, Santos of Australia and Medco Group) to get the best available expertise and develop the best mitigating solutions to limit the impacts of this disaster to human life and the environment. Furthermore, warning systems and response scenarios must be developed immediately in anticipation of  the coming rainy season, which is likely to aggravate the current situation

    4)          Rehabilitation Fund should be established by the large conglomerates who own Lapindo. They would have raked in massive amounts of money had they not bungled this oil drilling operations.  This disaster will have long-term impacts to people’s livelihood and the environment. This rehabilitation fund should also cover remediation and restoration costs of  the mud flow’s impacts on the river, marine and water ecosystems  in the area  which are now likely to be affected as well. Of course, in the end no money can ever compensate for this irreversible damage to the environment.


    5)          Demand Full Accountability and Liability from Lapindo and Minister Bakrie. It is utterly shameless for the minister to distance himself from the disaster when his corporate group owns the controlling shares of this operation.  Mr Bakrie, who heads the Social Welfare ministry, did not even ensure proper evacuation and care for the 10,000 affected people.  The government must force Mr Bakrie and Lapindo (and shareholders) to shoulder all costs concerning evacuation, compensation, containment and rehabilitation. Ultimately, taxpayers’ money must not be used to deal with the disaster caused by one of the largest industrial conglomerates in Indonesia. Otherwise, the Indonesian public is forced to shoulder the burden for a calamity brought about by the irresponsible actions of  the company.

“The Lapindo mudflow disaster stands out as an iconic example of a corporate crime, demonstrating how irresponsible activities by big business continue to wreak havoc on the environment and people’s lives.  Corporations are rewarded with overgenerous opportunities and rights to profit from the exploitation of the environment. At the first sign of trouble, they tend to take flight leaving their legacies of suffering and degradation behind.  The Lapindo disaster is a classic example of this trend,” Hidayati added.