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Mudflow Villagers Won’t Budge Without More Cash

SURABAYA–Residents of three villages in Jabon subdistrict in Sidoarjo, East Java, have refused to leave their homes as part of a government plan to use the area as a reservoir for mud from the Lapindo mud volcano.

Under an earlier agreement, residents of Pejarakan, Besuki, and Kedungcungkring villages were to leave after receiving 20 percent of the compensation promised to them by the government, with the rest to follow.

However, the Sidoarjo Mudflow Mitigation Agency (BPLS) said on Tuesday that the residents were refusing to honor the agreement, despite have already received more than the initial 20 percent.

“The villagers have received 50 percent of the total compensation the government promised them, as well as daily allowances and evacuation money, but they still refuse to leave,” said Kusairi, a spokesman for the BPLS.

He said the villagers needed to evacuate the area as soon as possible because new mud wells were erupting more frequently in the villages, spewing hot mud and flammable gases.

“There have been many fires in the area recently because irresponsible people recklessly keep lighting matches there,” Kusairi said.

However, the villagers deny they have been paid 50 percent of the compensation. They acknowledge they have been paid the 20 percent, but say they want more.

Abdul Rokhim, the coordinator of the mud victims’ group in Besuki village, said the residents would not oppose the government’s plan as long as the compensation was sufficient.

“The government should pay us at least 30 percent of the promised compensation,” he said. “Only then will the people consider moving.”

Abdul said the villagers were holding out for more money because they needed it to build or buy new homes elsewhere.

The Sidoarjo mud volcano has been spewing thousands of cubic meters of hot mud and gas every day from a fissure that appeared near a gas drilling well operated by Lapindo Brantas in May 2006, swamping much of Porong subdistrict.

Lapindo, partly owned by the family of Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie, has since been widely criticized for not owning up to the incident and failing to compensate families whose properties have been swamped.

Meanwhile, another mud well has erupted in the neighboring village of West Siring. The well began spewing hot mud and water 30 centimeters into the air on Monday night.

However, no damage to property was reported because the well erupted in a vacant lot. –Amir Tejo

(c) The Jakarta Globe

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