Jakarta, 12 March 2021 – President Joko Widodo removed coal waste from combustion, namely Fly Ash and Bottom Ash (FABA), from Toxic Hazardous Waste (LB3). It is stated in the derivative regulations of the Job Creation Law, namely Government Regulation Number 22 of 2021 concerning the Implementation of Environmental Protection and Management. [1] This decision in favor of the coal-dirty energy industry is bad news for the environment, public health, and the future of the national clean and renewable energy transition.

The stipulation of this regulation is inseparable from simultaneous pressure since mid-2020 by the Indonesian Private Electric Producers Association (API) and the Indonesian Employers’ Association (APINDO), including the Indonesian Coal Mining Association (APBI-ICMA), which is part of it [2].

“The elimination of FABA from the hazardous waste category is part of a Grand Policy Package which is systematically designed to provide privileges for the coal dirty energy industry from upstream to downstream,” Andri Prasetiyo, Researcher and Campaigner of Trend Asia.

The massive efforts of the coal oligarchy started with the revision of the Minerba Law, the Omnibus Law on Work Creation, a downstream coal project that attempted to hijack the New and Renewable Energy Bill, and now by removing FABA waste from the type of B3 waste. For the sake of policy, this policy is only intended so that the coal dirty energy industry can continue to make multiple profits.

The removal of FABA from the list of B3 waste is a dangerous and challenging decision. Coal contains various types of toxic elements, including heavy metals and radioactive. When coal is burned in power plants, this toxic element is concentrated in its combustion products, namely, fly ash and solid ash (FABA). When FABA interacts with water, these toxic elements can be leached out slowly, including arsenic, boron, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, lead, mercury, radium, selenium, and thallium into the environment.

“These elements are carcinogenic, neurotoxic and toxic to humans, fish, aquatic biota and wildlife. Instead of strengthening the implementation of supervision and imposing sanctions on coal ash management from power plants which will reduce the risk of exposure, the government has relaxed the rules for managing coal ash by removing it from the hazardous waste list, “said Fajri Fadhillah from the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL).

There are many reports and facts regarding changes and decreases in environmental and health conditions of residents around the steam powered electric generator (PLTU). As experienced by residents and farmers in Mpanau, Central Sulawesi, Cilacap, Central Java, Indramayu and Cirebon West Java, Celukan Bawang Bali, Ombilin West Sumatra, Muara Maung and Muara Enim South Sumatra, and Suralaya Banten [3].

Similar sufferings are also experienced by residents in many villages in South Kalimantan and East Kalimantan, including in Morowali, Central Sulawesi, where there are nickel smelters, mine-mouth power plants, and industrial areas whose electricity comes from coal. Furthermore, it will soon be experienced by farmers and residents in Teluk Sepang, Bengkulu, and many other coal plants.

“82% of coal power plants are located on the coast. Operations and the resulting waste will poison coastal marine biota and food which will be consumed by residents again. The impact will be experienced by women’s groups and other vulnerable groups such as children and their closest groups such as fishermen and indigenous peoples,” said Ali Akbar from Kanopi Bengkulu.

In the report on the Analysis of Hazardous Waste Generation & Management Policy in Indonesia issued by BAPPENAS, it is stated that FABA is one of the most types of B3 waste produced in 2019 [4]. Furthermore, bottom Ash is in the category of waste with the highest hazard level with a score of 13 (scale of 14), while Fly Ash has a score of 11 (from a scale of 14) [5].

Even when FABA had the status of B3 waste, many case studies showed that licensing had not succeeded in ensuring protection against risks. Ashes producers and third parties who manage the ash have not managed the risk and met the proper technical requirements as stipulated in the regulations.

Several cases show that the permit owner discharges illegal ash without management in rivers, swamps, vacant land near people’s homes or gives it accessible to residents as fill material. For example, in the PT Indominco case, East Kalimantan, this company has been convicted because of the lousy management of FABA. There has been no recovery in the field. The value of the fine is minimal and does not create a deterrent effect.

“Likewise residents near PLTU Mpanau, Central Sulawesi. People who are sick and complain to the government are instead asked to prove for themselves the relationship between their illness and the impact of the FABA operation of the PLTU. So protecting citizens from FABA waste is nonsense. Especially now when FABA is no longer poisonous and dangerous. From that case, this policy will make coal businesses more reckless in disposing of waste and free from the law,” said Merah Johansyah of the Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM).

In Indonesia, studies on environmental pollution due to FABA and its health impacts are still minimal. Information on groundwater testing results is not available for public access, even though it is a requirement for B3 waste management. Meanwhile, even licensed activities that have been considered obedient for years are not necessarily correct. Frequently, serious inspections are carried out after community unrest has escalated or complaints from the public. Even if sanctions are imposed, it does not always guarantee that the community is free from repeated violations.

“Never mind talking about information on how this toxic waste is managed, important documents such as Environmental IImpact Assessment (AMDAL) and environmental permits are difficult to obtain, even though they have to go through court mechanisms. In fact, this document contains data and information on how the projected impact of company operations can be seen, examined and publicly monitored. Especially the fact how weak the government’s supervision and enforcement of environmental criminals is,” said Khalisah Khalid, from WALHI Nasional.

If the government has a strong orientation and desire for development efforts that prioritize environmental sustainability, prevent environmental disasters and public health problems, the government must still regulate FABA coal as a type of B3 waste. The elimination of the current regulation on the pretext of encouraging utilization will only end up as a high-risk economic step.

“Clean Indonesia urges President Jokowi to revoke the policy that eliminates FABA as B3 waste. Clean Indonesia also urges the government to immediately switch to renewable energy. The energy transition must be carried out seriously and begin with a coal phase out policy, not continuing to facilitate the dirty, greedy and greedy coal energy industry, “added Ali Akbar. (*)

Editor’s note:

  • The digital copy document of Government Regulation Number 2021 can be accessed through a list of links to implementing regulations for the Job Creation Law on the website of the Secretariat of the Cabinet of the Republic of Indonesia https://setkab.go.id/daftar-tautan-49-aturan-pelaksana-uu-cipta-kerja/. This regulation replaces the previous regulation, namely Government Regulation Number 22 of 2021 concerning Environmental Protection and Management.
  • Apindo, together with 16 Industry Associations, asked FABA to be removed from the list of hazardous waste. https://ekonomi.bisnis.com/read/20200618/257/1254405/apindo-bersama-16-asosiasi-industri-u%20sul-faba-dikeluarkan-dari-daftar-limbah-b3
  • Clean Indonesia documents a collection of stories and news from residents around the PLTU in several areas through communication products that can be accessed via the following link: https://www.instagram.com/p/CFhFJmqAs8V/ https://www.instagram.com/p/CFq1kHuA8rW/ https://www.instagram.com/p/CF2DvgxAFor/
  • This BAPPENAS report (2020) refers to data from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of the Republic of Indonesia in 2019. 5] The hazard level scoring in the report issued by the Directorate of Environment, Ministry of National Development Planning / Bappenas in collaboration with ITB and Nexus3 foundation is based on four assessment parameters, namely: LD50, LC50, Radioactivity, Recovery rate. LD50 or (Lethal Dose Fifty) is a waste dose that can process a 50% mortality response in the population of tested animals. LC50 or Lethal concentration 50% (LC50) is a value that indicates the concentration of toxic substances that can cause the death of organisms up to 50%.

Media contact:

Merah Johansyah, National JATAM Coordinator, +62 813-4788-2228

Andri Prasetiyo, Researcher and Campaigner of Asian Trends +62 878-8345-3112

Ali Akbar, Head of Bengkulu Canopy, +62 852-7357-2112

Khalisah Khalid, Coordinator of the National WALHI Political Desk, +62 812-9040-0147

Fajri Fadhillah, Head of the ICEL Pollution and Control Division, +62 812-8317-4014