Foreign NGOs, primarily Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth through its local chapter WALHI, and Friends of the Earth Japan, 350.org and others, succeeded to influence the administrative courts in Indonesia.
Despite the immediate joyful reaction by the NGO community the economic impacts are felt by the already nervous investment community. The court order is a set back and will be appealed.
Jokowi cabinet peppered with former activists is unlikely able to comprehend the strategic implications of his populist people’s policies. In the president’s defense the administration is caught between the proverbial rock. On one hand the Jokowi administration working hard attracting the foreign investment community but without much success.
Jokowi appeasement the environmental collective and groups like AMAN and other NGOs, who pursue what many observers view is an anti-development, anti-industry campaign, has not provided confidence to foreign and Indonesian industry leaders. Domestic resistance has grown against the president.
The project aims to build a 1,000-megawatt coal-fired power plant next to an existing 600-megawatt facility in Cirebon, in West Java. The current power plant and the planned expansion have been the subject of an ongoing campaign by international environmental activists using local groups.
According to an April 19 judgement from the Bandung Administrative Court, the expansion plan violated the local spatial planning law. Under that law, project developers PT. Cirebon Energi Prasarana had permission to operate in one sub-district, Astanajapura.
However, the project plans were also found to cover a second sub-district, Mundu, which is zoned for other purposes, Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI) explained in an April 20 press statement.
Mongabay.co.id, the U.S. funded environmental website wrote, “This is an important judgement which shows the failure of the local government to respect an approvals process designed to protect the lives and livelihoods of people in the surrounding area,” added Wahyu Widianto, campaign manager of WALHI West Java.
Without an environmental permit, the project should not be allowed to continue. However, the developers can appeal the ruling within 14 days of its issuance.
Although it is still not final, the verdict marks a significant victory for activists who have long been fighting coal-power developments in Cirebon. Dozen of residents from the affected sub-districts gathered at the Bandung courthouse to hear the verdict and, later, to celebrate the news.
The project has been the focus of numerous demonstrations, including a May 2016 protest in which Greenpeace environmental activists climbed machinery used to unload fuel being shipped into the plant, hanging protest banners and blocking the supply of coal.
Financing plans have continued to move forward. On April 18, the day before the court ruling, a consortium of international financiers led by the state-owned Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) committed to providing the project $1.74 billion in funding.
Japanese environmental groups — including Friends of the Earth Japan, Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society, Kiko Network and 350.org Japan — have also called on JBIC to withdraw financing for the project.