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Police clash with Wadas villagers opposing major dam construction

Tempo - February 8, 2022

Francisca Christy Rosana, Jamal A. Nashr, Jakarta – The number of arrests against villagers of Wadas, Central Java Province, has allegedly grown by 25 as of Tuesday afternoon as the locals continue to oppose the government's attempt to enter the village by mobilizing hundreds of police officers.

Wadas, according to the local government plan, will be turned into an andesite mining site, which is part of the main dam construction named Bendungan Bener in Purworejo.

This was confirmed by the Wadas villagers' legal team member from the LBH Yogyakarta, Julian Duwi Prasetyo, in a text message to Tempo on February 8. "There were roughly 25 people taken to the Purworejo police headquarters, in the list of people taken by the police including members of the LBH Yogyakarta."

Julian continues to register the number of villagers arrested by law enforcement officers. He said that today, thousands of police remain at the village to guard the land measurement process done by the National Land Agency (BPN).

"Our legal team was not permitted to enter Wadas without a legal document," he said.

The Wadas resistance movement against the construction of a mining site within their village area on Tuesday shared multiple videos recorded with mobile phones on Tuesday morning. These videos have spread across social media platforms, which show hundreds of police officers surrounding the village. The villagers stay together at a local mosque.

The situation regarding communication inside Wadas is bleak as it seems to have been cut. Tempo attempted to contact a number of local residents but was unable to as their telephones were not active.

When asked about the alleged arrests made against villagers defending their area, the Central Java Police spokesperson commissioner Iqbal Alqudusy said the villagers in question had previously taken pictures of the Central Java Police HQ with their mobile phones and alleged that it was done with bad intentions.

"We suspect the pictures would then be uploaded to online accounts that are against the construction of the dam with negative narratives," he defended.

Wadas villagers have fought against the development of the mining site and dam project since four years ago. Andesite is planned to be extracted from the 114-hectare area and will be used as the main component in the construction of the dam, Bendungan Bener, which is considered a national strategic project.

Tempo in early January met with Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo to clarify the situation at Wadas. He explained that the project will see land acquisitions on 579 plots of land there. About 160 people owning 236 plots of the land refused to let the government acquire it, while 343 locals who own land plots in Wadas agreed to sell it for the construction project.

"We must listen to all parties, not just one or two," said the governor.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/1558850/police-clash-with-wadas-villagers-opposing-major-dam-constructio