Vitorio Mantalean, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo inaugurated the Poso Energy hydroelectric power plant (PLTA) in Central Sulawesi on Friday February 25.
Widodo said that he hoped there would be more PLTAs constructed in order to reduce carbon emissions in the long-term.
The project however, has been cited as being ridden with problems and has sacrificed victims. The victims are none other than the communities living in the vicinity of Poso Lake whose livelihoods vanished two year ago due to the impact of floods and trial runs of the project.
The project has resulted in the Poso Lake's water levels rising and flooding surrounding villages, inundating at least 266 hectares of rice fields and some 100 hectares of plantations.
The cries of farmers
This situation has left the farmers crying for help. Dewa Nyoman Oka Wirawan, a farmer living in the vicinity of Poso Lake, claims his land can no longer be worked due to flooding.
"The irrigation channel for our rice fields has gone. Then for two years (it was flooded) and we could not work [the fields] until grass and mud covered the waterways or irrigation [system]", said Wirawan in a virtual discussion on Friday.
Yet the irrigation system was built by the efforts of residents without any assistance whatsoever from the government.
A similar view was expressed by Edi Salawati, a farmer from Meko Village. He too complained because the land can no longer be worked until in the end his family had difficulties eating.
"The household needs are no longer met because of the impact which we are suffering. We have now been suffering for two years', he said holding back tears during the same discussion.
"The produce (of the land) was not just for our household's needs, but also for other needs, spacifily our children's education", added Salawati.
Meanwhile a farmer from Mako Village named Irdianto related how he and his fellow farmers have already complained to the farmers group about the problems that have befallen them.
But there was no solution at all. He claims that his life has become full of difficulties because their rice fields have been inundated.
"This is the fact, I don't do anything [anymore]. The rice fields cant's [be worked anymore], what work should I do? I'll die if I don't have an income", said Irdianto.
The rice filed he owns also cannot be used as collateral if he want so borrow money from the cooperative. Irdianto said he was forced use the certificate for his house as collateral.
He also claims that although they were offcered compensation for their rice fields which have been now been inundated with water but the compensation was onoy 10 kilograms of rice per are [a measurement equal to 100 square metres], something they is totally incomparable with the value of their rice fields.
"If it goes on like this I could leave my native village. But go were, it's difficult everywhere", complained Irdianto.
"If I could confront Bapak [Mr] (Jokowi), I would confront him [with our problems], although perhaps it would be impossible for me to confront Bapak, because I wouldn't be allowed by government officials. But I could talk with Bapak", he said.
PLTA Poso Energy is being developed by the Kalla Group owned by the family of former Vice President Jusuf Kalla. Kompas.com is still seeking a response from PLTA Poso Energy in relation to the complaints of the farmers living near the PLTA.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Jeritan Petani di Balik Proyek PLTA di Poso yang Diresmikan Jokowi".]