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Indonesia: struggle against cement in central java

The Kendeng Mountains lie in the Sukolilo subdistrict, in the district of Pati in Central Java. Sukolilo has many historical sites and much exotic natural potential for tourism, including the Tomb of Saridin, grottos, hermitages, and the heritage of the Malawapati Kingdom.
stop the cement factory java, indonesia "Stop the cement factory" © alimander

This is where the Sedulur Sikep community lives. This community famously follows the teachings of Samin – Saminism – which was spread by Samin Surosentiko (1859-1914). They rejected

Dutch colonial culture and the capitalist economy that emerged in the 19th century.


Whilst they opposed physical resistance, they refused all rules and the obligation to pay taxes to the Dutch government. Instead they developed traditions and customs of their own. The community still lives in the same way, farming without recourse to modern tools. The farmers plant corn and chili peppers on dry land, and rice in some wetlands. Other areas are planted with teak trees and bananas. The total population working in the agricultural sector is 144,500.

Pati’s natural wealth stems from its unique karst landscape in the mountains of North Kendeng. Unfortunately it is this same geological feature that has attracted Indonesia’s biggest cement manufacturer, PT. Semen Gresik (Persero) Tbk, since the karst’s limestone is used in the production of cement.


The company wants to build its cement plant in the main agricultural area where rice and corn are grown. If they are allowed to proceed, environmental and health impacts are likely to include the contamination of critical local water systems, and significant levels of air pollution, noise and dust. There is no guarantee of any economic benefits for the local community, and they are totally opposed to this type of industrial development anyway.


The corporation officially accessed the area in 2006, with official governmental permission for exploratory mining activities. Friends of the Earth Indonesia/WALHI, supporting the communities’ strong opposition, filed an administrative lawsuit against the mining permit in the Semarang Administrative Court, which was won at appeal at the Supreme Court. This decision repealed the company’s mining permit, forcing PT Semen Gresik to stop its activities.


Now, however, the citizens of the area have been alerted to the fact that there are efforts underway to change the spatial planning designation policy for the Kendeng area, to allow for mining and industry and the entry of corporations, as well as agriculture, tourism and water catchments. Despite the triumph in the Supreme Court, the fight continues.\


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