The high price of coal

Feature story - October 19, 2010
Cirebon – This morning, a flotilla of more than 30 fishing boats set off from the village of Waruduwur towards Cirebon coal-fired power plant. Onboard, local fishermen and Greenpeace activists called on Indonesia's government to abandon its plans to build more coal plants, and to embrace a clean energy revolution instead.

The flotilla at Cirebon

 The fishermen of Waruduwur know all about the grim realities of coal. Since the Cirebon plant was built on their doorstep, fish stocks in the coastal waters around the village have plummeted.

“Three years ago we easily found crab and shrimp in coastal area,” says Mr Romansah, a Waruduwur fisherman. “But since the construction of the coal plant, we can now only catch five shrimps for one day.”

Fishing isn't the only livelihood to have suffered. Traditional salt makers' land has been cut off, and they can no longer make salt. In nearby villages, terasi (shrimp paste) makers and green mussels catchers have all been badly affected.

A performance about coal at Cirebon

So today, a flotilla of local fishermen and Greenpeace activists sailed out to Cirebon to deliver a message to Indonesia's government: “Coal kills”. After returning to Waruduwur, the group - their faces covered in black dust – staged a performance about coal and its impacts.

The Queen of Cirebon spoke out in support of Greenpeace's activities today, saying that she welcomed any organisation – including Greenpeace – that worked for environmental protection and the welfare of Indonesia's people.

Mrs Soniya, a resident of North Samarinda

"Since the coal mine started operating in our village our rice fields and fish ponds have been damaged by the coal waste. We also lost the water we use for drinking and washing. We can no longer drink the water in the river behind our house."

Later, in the village, Greenpeace launched a new report exploring the real price of coal for Indonesia. Across the country, Indonesians living near coal mines and coal fired power plants are experiencing the real price of coal: toxic pollution, destroyed livelihoods, displaced communities, health impacts, acid rain, smog pollution, and reduced agricultural yields.

If the government pursues its plan to build more coal plants, it's not just bad news for communities near the plants; burning coal releases greenhouse gases, and all Indonesians will feel the effects of climate change. Meanwhile, Indonesia's abundant solar, wind and geo-thermal potential goes mostly unexplored.

Indonesia doesn’t need more coal. To help to ensure a better future for all of our children and grand-children, it needs an energy revolution.