Dam nation

Thursday 15 June 1995

The saga of Indonesia's dam of misery continues

-- As part of the recent orgy of self-recrimination, the World Bank has in a confidential document admitted its goof-ups in Indonesia. A "project completion report" for the Bank-funded Kedung Ombo 61-metre-high dam in central Java, completed in 1989, points to the "highly defective" resettlement plans: 72 per cent of the affected families are now worse off.

The report cites studies conducted in 1993 by the Satya Wacana Christian University, which showed that 59 per cent of the 300,000 people from 20 villages who accepted government resettlement compensation now earn less than their neighbours who stayed put.

After the residents of Nglanji village, which was completely submerged, took the matter to the courts, Indonesia's Supreme Court revoked its own order of compensation to the villagers.

The transmigration programme to neighbouring Sumatra has also flopped, with more than 80 per cent of the people refusing to join the programme. Those families that did move are mired in an infertile, flood-prone land and recurrent land right disputes with the locals.

Four million people were to be ousted under Bank-backed projects currently underway or likely to be approved by 1996. The bank's Indonesia office has offered to implement its recommendations, including "more candour, rigorous application of (its) policies on resettlement, closer supervision and early discussions with the government about the project's concepts to prevent problems from remaining unrecognised or growing".

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