Michael Taylor, Kuala Lumpur – An Indonesian court has rejected a legal challenge from local residents attempting to halt the expansion of a coal power plant on the holiday island of Bali, the environmental group Greenpeace said on Friday.
Three residents near the Celukan Bawang power plant, about 120 km (75 miles) from the main tourism hub of Denpasar, had tried to stop the planned expansion due to pollution fears.
"The judge only used the perspective of our opponents," said Didit Wicaksono, a climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Indonesia, which backed the legal challenge.
"We are very sad about the decision," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adding that an appeal in a higher court was now planned.
The legal bid claimed that the expansion – which would more than double power capacity at the site – would be a setback to the remote area's tourism and fishing industries.
The expansion would lead to increased air and water pollution, damage crops, and have a negative effect on wildlife at a nearby national park, argued the plaintiffs.
In its ruling on Thursday, the Denpasar administrative court said the action "had no legal standing" and that new technology would be able to mitigate the risk of pollution, according to Greenpeace.
The court also ruled that expansion work should not be halted during any appeal process, Wicaksono said, adding that activists and community members are planning to protest near the plant.
PT General Energy Bali, which runs the Celukan Bawang power plant, could not be reached for comment. Agung Pribadi, an energy ministry spokesman, said by phone that the government would respect the court's ruling.
In a statement, one of the plaintiffs, I Ketut Mangku, said that pollution from the coal plant has negatively affected the health of both his family and his crops. "The planned expansion is going to be even more harmful with far reaching impact," he said.
Indonesia is among the fastest-growing countries for energy consumption due to a steadily increasing population, economic development and a rise in urbanization.
Like other Asian nations, the government faces the challenge of boosting electricity access while meeting its pledge to cut climate-changing emissions under the Paris Agreement.
Indonesia's emissions targets can only be achieved by reducing its reliance on coal power and ramping up investment in clean, renewable energy projects, electricity experts say.
[Reporting by Michael Taylor, Editing by Jared Ferrie.]