SAMBOJA, EAST KALIMANTAN: A local chapter of the Regional Environmental Agency blamed 18 mining companies on Wednesday for the extensive flooding that hit Samboja, a subdistrict of Kutai Kartanegara, last weekend, Jakarta Globe reported.
The agency known as BPLHD said investigators had found that the mining activities of 18 companies caused the flooding that inundated 483 houses in Samboja on Friday, leaving one person dead.
“From our inspection in the field, we know that a number of mining companies are engaging in activities that are not in line with the regulations and are damaging the environment,” said Akhmad Taufik Hidayat, the BLHD official in charge of Kutai Kartanegara.
Heavy rains played a role but were not the sole cause, he said.
Twelve of the miners are operating in the Sungai Seluang ward, Akhmad said. The other six are spread among Sungai Merdeka, Wonotirto and Margomulyo wards.
None of the companies had built settling ponds at their mining sites, one of the main causes of the flooding, Akhmad said.
“There will be a decision on whether their permits will be frozen unless they build settling ponds,” he said.
That was not Akhmad’s only qualm with the mining companies. In addition to constructing settling ponds, he said, they needed to repair waste treatment facilities and normalize the flow of the Seluang and Merdeka rivers, which have been substantially affected by sedimentation from the mining operations.
The shallow river beds meant the rivers could no longer accommodate the large volume of water by propelling it all the way to sea, he said.
“If it was a normal flood, the water would not be so murky,” he said. “But the water was clearly murky.
“The most likely possibility is thus that the flooding was caused by the mining operations and the heavy rains.”
It was important that the companies help the residents affected by the floods to recover from them, he said.
Locals have long blamed mining companies for environmental degradation. Now, families affected by the recent flooding are seeking compensation of Rp 100 million ($10,600).
The flood also damaged crops on some 200 hectares of agricultural fields in three wards. It was reportedly the worst flooding the region had ever seen.
In November 2011, a suspension bridge in Kutai Kartanegara collapsed, killing at least 20 people.