FOR two decades, farmers in Rancaekek Sub-district, Bandung Regency suffered from factory waste. Rice fields covering an area of 752 hectares are victims and production continues to decline.
Tragically, legal efforts to restore the environment have run aground. Policy makers cannot do much.
For the umpteenth time, Ayi (55) had to stroke his chest. His 800 square meter rice field is no longer able to produce grain at a reasonable rate when the harvest season arrives.
“In the past, usually, my rice fields were able to produce grain up to 500 kilograms. But now mah boro-boro, the results dropped dramatically. Just getting 100 kilograms or 200 kilograms is good enough, “said the resident farmer of Kampung Walini, Bojongloa Village, Rancaekek Subdistrict, Bandung Regency when met on Friday, December 14, 2018.
He pointed to the black and pungent industrial wastewater that inundated his fields. The same water also soaks the surrounding fields.
The water comes from the Cikijing River, the only source of water that farmers rely on for the survival of their dams.
“If the rainy season arrives, the water conditions are rather good. But, in the dry season, it is pitch black. The rice plants die, “he said again.
A similar statement was expressed by Dayat Ruhiyat (46), a farmer resident of Babakan Jawa Village, Bojongloa Village. The cultivating farmer manages 1 hectare of rice fields belonging to a number of people.
From that wide rice field, the grain harvest is up to 6 tons. But that was first, when the water flowing through the fields was still clean, there was no factory waste. Now, in the rainy season only, rice fields can only produce 2 tons of grain. While in the dry season, the results are zero.
Dayat is now in a bad mood. The reason is, the owners of rice fields intend to sell their land because they are no longer productive.
“The yield continues to fall due to waste water. The owner who has been working on my rice field to sell it. If it's sold, that means I don't have any more work. Do not have income, “Dayat said in a merciful tone.
Terror of waste
What Ayi and Dayat experienced represented the suffering of the farmers who had been terrorized for decades by factory wastewater.
The jet-black water flow is like a wild snake preying on rice plants covering an area of 752 hectares spread across four villages, namely Jelegong, Bojongloa, Linggar, and Sukamulya.
According to the Head of the Food Crops Division at the Bandung District Agriculture Service Ina Dewi Kania, on these fields, pollution of heavy metals sodium (Na), chromium (Cr), zinc (Zn), and cobalt (Co) has seeped far enough into the soil . Na contamination has reached 47-300 parts per million (ppm), at the normal limit of only 10 ppm.
Even though the water used to irrigate the land improved, Ina assessed, the yield obtained would not be able to be normal, as long as the excess Na is still contained in the soil.
It was once proven by the Agriculture Service team with the Bandung Regency Environmental Office when conducting testing, a few years ago.
“In the past, we made a holding pool. River water is neutralized first with water hyacinth plants while the land is given initial treatment by planting mendong and vetiver roots. As a result, rice can indeed grow, but the results remain minimal. From the normal 6 tons, after being polluted, it only produces 0.5 tons per hectare, “said Ina.
It is been a long time
Public complaints about the pollution of the Cikijing River and the destruction of hundreds of hectares of rice fields due to factory waste can be traced at least until 1992.
Many parties pointed out that the origin of the disaster was nothing but waste water pouring from PT Kahatex II's factory, PT Five Star Textile Indonesia, and PT Insan Sandang Internusa.
All three are in the Rancaekek area, Sumedang Regency. Meanwhile, the rice fields that were victims were in the south into the Regency area of Bandung.
This condition had become an environmental dispute. From January 2013 to 26 February 2014, mediation was conducted.
The Ministry of Environment, West Java BPLHD, Sumedang BLH, and Bandung Regency BLH agreed that the settlement was carried out outside the court. Then it was agreed, payment of compensation to the community of the four villages concerned, restoring 752 hectares of polluted rice fields and improving waste water management. Unfortunately, the agreement was never realized.
It was only in 2016, the Coalition Against Waste (KML) – which was a combination of the Community Care Concerned Society (Pawapeling) organization, Bandung Legal Aid Foundation, West Java Forum for the Environment (Walhi) and Greenpeace – acting more concretely. This coalition sued the Regent of Sumedang and a number of companies to the Bandung State Administrative Court.
According to the Chairperson of Pawapeling Adi Mulyadi, KML sued the Sumedang Regent regarding the issuance of IPLCs to the Cikijing River for PT Kahatex, PT Five Star Textile Indonesia, and PT Insan Sandang Internusa.
“The regent's decree clearly gives permission to dispose of waste to Cikijing, without first assessing the power of the river to accommodate the waste load,” he said.
In fact, Cikijing is a river whose water class has not been determined. Thus, based on Article 55 of Government Regulation No. 82/2001 concerning Management of Water Quality and Water Pollution Control, Cikijing water class is class II, for example for water recreation, cultivation of freshwater fish, livestock, and irrigating crops.
The regent's decree at least has caused losses related to the productivity of agricultural land, social relations, and health.
Based on the Unpad Ecology study, which was used as evidence in the lawsuit, Adi said, it was stated that hundreds of hectares of rice fields were no longer productive because they had been polluted by industrial waste for more than two decades.
Public relations were disrupted because in the farm family, there were members who worked in the industry. If the factory is closed because it has to pay losses, the unemployment rate will increase.
Win a lawsuit
The KML lawsuit won at the PTUN Bandung, also at the Jakarta PTUN. When the defendants appealed to the Supreme Court, the agency refused. Thus, the Regent of Sumedang must immediately revoke the IPLC. That means, the liquid waste of the factory concerned may no longer be disposed of to Cikijing. Legal provisions are effective since August 2017.
But until now, the decision has not been executed. The factory continued to dispose of its balance to Cikijing and the fate of 753 hectares of rice fields remained unchanged.
“We are of course disappointed. This is a bad precedent. Only win on paper, but there is no execution. All parties should obey the law, “Adi said.
Instead of the IPLC being revoked, two months after the Supreme Court ruling, the Sumedang Regency even issued a new permit so that PT Kahatex may dispose of their liquid waste.
“So, in principle, the IPLC for the three companies has been revoked. However, it turns out there is a new permit for Kahatex. I don't know, the Sumedang Regency Government can easily issue new permits, “said Director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), West Java, Dadan Ramdan.
He considered, the party that was wrong in this case was the Sumedang Regency Government, the regent, and the Sumedang Environmental Service Office for giving permission for the disposal of new liquid waste. Whatever the reason, the actions of the Sumedang Regent clearly contradicted environmental law, violating the ruling of inclusion from the Supreme Court.
However, the Sumedang Regency Government does not want to be accused of being the wrong party. The Head of Sumedang Regency Environmental and Forestry Service (DLHK) Amim said that the issuance of IPLC for PT Kahatex was carried out by the Investment Services and One Stop Services (DPMPTSP) based on technical recommendations from DLHK.
This refers to the results of monthly waste testing that goes to DLHK, the results of inspection of WWTP conditions in the field, as well as documents on the impact of waste disposal.
“The result, all in accordance with applicable regulations. This is evidenced by the results of testing in an accredited laboratory. On that basis, we recommend the application for making Kahatex IPLC, “he said when met at his office, Thursday, December 13, 2018.
Regarding the revocation of the IPLC according to the Supreme Court's decision, Amim argued that this had been carried out by the Sumedang Regency Government. The revocation document is in DPMPTSP. However, before the old permit was revoked, Kahatex had prepared various technical requirements for the issuance of the new IPLC. For example, make an assessment document for waste water disposal. The problem is, in the old IPLC, Kahatex has not completed the document.
“It is the absence of the document that caused Kahatex to lose in court, including at the Supreme Court cassation level. So, the mistake, the requirements are not complete, but permission has been issued. “The lawsuit is not a matter of the pollution of the waste, but the administration that is not yet complete,” he said.
PT Kahatex denies allegations that factory wastewater discharged into the Cikijing River has damaged rice fields. You see, Kahatex has never violated the quality standards of liquid waste disposed of into the river.
In the past ten years, Kahatex's liquid waste quality standards have been in accordance with the provisions set by the government.
In fact, since 2012, the company has implemented a sophisticated wastewater treatment plant (IPAL) technology compared to other industries in the region. One of them is by installing CCTV so that the management of WWTP can be monitored at any time.
“Until now, Kahatex has never been proven to dispose of liquid waste that is dangerous and damaging to the environment,” PT Kahatex General Manager and Public Relations Luddy Sutedja said at the Sumedang Parliament Building on Tuesday last week.
Luddy is more straightforward. According to him, the reason for the Sumedang Regency Government was not to immediately revoke the IPLCs of a number of factories according to the Supreme Court's decision because of consideration to save thousands of workers.
In dilemmatic conditions, the Sumedang District Government consulted the Legal Bureau, including legal experts. The results of his consultations led to a legal opinion stating that he had revoked the old IPLC and issued a new IPLC with a few notes.
Regarding the lawsuit filed by KML, Luddy said that the lawsuit was not due to negligence, carelessness, or Kahatex's violation in the disposal of its waste, but was related to legal products made by the regional government. If the IPLC is revoked, it will disrupt Kahatex's business with buyers.
“It is not impossible, Kahatex will be considered problematic so our buyers will hold orders. As a result, the product will not sell so it will threaten the work continuity of 34,700 employees. If the IPLC is revoked, Kahatex will fight the Sumedang Regency Government, “he said.
Criminal law can talk
This condition made Asep Warlan Yusuf, an environmental law expert from Parahyangan Catholic University, concerned. Actually, the government from all walks of life has been involved in resolving environmental problems in the Rancaekek industrial area. However, he acknowledged, violations continued.
The government has the right to stop violations and restore the environment by measuring quality standards. If above the threshold, environmental permits can be frozen and will spread to business permits. This will be a new problem that makes a dilemma. However, the environment must be saved. It is non-negotiable.
Thus, multi-layered supervision is needed through coordination at the government level of the obligation to undergo sanctions. If sanctions are not carried out, fine talk. If the fine is not fulfilled, the criminal law speaks.
“I did not understand why the Supreme Court's ruling was not obeyed? In fact, pollution has been taking place for a long time and (impacting) seriously, “he said.
The issue of labor is indeed often a shield that holds policy makers hostage, even legal decisions. With the pretext of labor, too, many factories have survived the habit of throwing waste freely into the river. With a perspective like this, there may be no factory that violates the rules about the environment that is subject to legal sanctions.
Another question arises, whether by reason of saving thousands of workers then the factory may damage the environment?
Is there no other way for waste to be disposed of safely, the environment maintained, and farmers not suffering? Don't let law enforcement continue to be held hostage. ***