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Nukila Evanty: Expecting government proactivity in resolving environmental problem in Pangkalan Susu

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Jakarta, IO – Last weekend, Nukila Evanty, Chairperson of the Indigenous Community Initiative (IMA) and Executive Director of the Women’s Working Group (WWG), collaborated with a women’s organization, Srikandi Lestari, to provide training for women living around the coal-fired steam power plant (PLTU) in Pangkalan Susu, Langkat, North Sumatra.

The training aims to raise women’s awareness regarding clean and healthy environments, as well as their comprehension of legal and non-legal mechanisms. “We aim to strengthen the rights of women as victims, facilitate the recovery phase, create a safe space for those residing here, and simultaneously empower their economy by teaching them to make animal feed,” explained Nukila, in a special conversation with the Independent Observer on Sunday, December 3, 2023.

Nukila recounted one of the many stories during her advocacy in Pintu Air village, Kampung Tengah, and Pangkalan Susu. Miftah, a middle-aged woman whose family felt the impact of living near the coal-fired power plant, reported that her children suffered from irritated skin diseases, while her shrimp farming business also collapsed due to the acidic waste. Her shrimp farming business was thriving before the power plant was constructed in 2017.

Another woman, Ifat, revealed that her fish and shrimp farming business also had to shut down due to the power plant’s acidic waste. Ifat can only rely solely on her paddy field to meet her family’s needs.

Mak Ijah, Mayan, Eti, Keri and her husband are among those who suffer from the power plant’s effluent. Most residents experience skin disease, respiratory and thyroid problems, and fish and shrimp farming businesses fail due to poisoning.

The women of Pangkalan Susu were intimidated and followed by unknown people to discourage them from speaking about the collapsed businesses and diseases.

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The residents in Pangkalan Susu demand their voices be heard by the government and request the central government, particularly the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, the regional government, and the Ombudsman Commission, to immediately visit the affected residents living around the coal-fired power plant (PLTU). Second, they ask the government to keep its promise by implementing clean, new renewable energy and phasing out fossil energy. Third, they urge the government to address the community’s environmental, social, health, and economic impacts, particularly for children, pregnant women, and the elderly, as soon as possible.

Nukila expects businesses to abide by the ethics of conducting business: “Businesses must understand both the negative and positive consequences of their policies. If they make a mistake, they are obliged to resolve it,” Nukila concluded. (des)

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