Indonesians seek injunction in Seoul to stop coal-fired plants
Published : Aug 29, 2019 - 11:07
Updated : Aug 29, 2019 - 18:05
Indonesian residents filed a petition for a preliminary injunction to stop construction of coal-fired power plants, which are financed by Korean financial organizations and built and operated by Korean firms, according to Korean environmental civic group Solutions for Our Climate on Thursday.

This is the first case where residents outside Korea brought a legal action in the Korean court over a coal-fired power plant site.

On Thursday, the Indonesian plaintiffs -- three residents of Java Island -- filed a petition with the Seoul Central District Court seeking a preliminary injunction against Korean public financial institutions, including Korea Development Bank, Korea Export-Import Bank and Korea Trade Insurance Corporation, to stop financing the power plants. They claimed these plants would cause significant harm to their health and the environment. They were joined in the petition by two Korean environmentalists as co-plaintiffs.

Communities from a number of regions in Indonesia together with the #BersihkanIndonesia movement celebrate Independence Day by holding a theatrical “die-in” across the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, on Aug. 19. The #BersihkanIndonesia Movement calls for true independence from environmental destruction by leaving behind fossil energy sources and dirty coal, transitioning to renewable clean energy. (Trend Asia)

Two new coal-fired power plants, Jawa Units 9 and 10, are planned to be built about 150 kilometers west of Indonesia’s capital city of Jakarta.

In March, Doosan Heavy Industries and IRT, a subsidiary of Indonesia’s state-owned power company, signed a construction deal worth 1.6 trillion won ($1.32 billion) for the 2,000-megawatt plants.

These units are slated to be constructed by Korean construction firm Doosan Heavy and possibly operated by state-run power provider Korea Electric Power Corp. The three Korean public financial institutions participated in the project by issuing letters of intent for loans and export credits.

As Doosan Heavy Industries plans to begin construction later this year and complete it by April 2024, billions of dollars in loans are expected to be executed by the end of the year.

However, environmental harm and threats from coal-fired power plants has prompted serious concerns in Indonesia, according to Solutions for Our Climate. Twenty-two coal-fired power plants are currently in operation in the Jakarta region, the most populated area in Indonesia, with seven more plants slated to be added.

Coal is on fire in a barge near Jawa 9 and 10 Suralaya-Banten. (Trend Asia)

“Because Korean public financial institutions have already invested in coal-fired power plants currently operating in Indonesia, such as Cirebon 1, 2 and Kalsel, Korea is not free from its responsibility for the current situation,” said Kim Joo-jin, managing director of Solutions for Our Climate and a former attorney at Kim & Chang.

According to the civic group, the Indonesian residents are taking a direct hit from the rapid increase of coal-fired power plants. Salt harvesting, which is the largest source of income for the locals, has declined, along with revenue from agriculture and fisheries, they claimed. Residents are also allegedly suffering from increased respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses.

The plaintiffs criticized the Korean government for providing massive public funds through its government-controlled financial institutions to foreign coal projects while domestically phasing out coal in order to protect its people. The plaintiffs also argued that the construction of coal-fired power plants infringes on their constitutional right to a healthy life.

One of the plaintiffs, Wahyudin, who used an alias, said, “There is a long line at the hospital because people have skin and respiratory diseases. We really need to stop these new power plants.” The person’s family lives near the plant site.

Some residents of Jakarta also brought a lawsuit against Indonesian government authorities in July, arguing they should be held responsible for declining air quality. In April 2017, Bandung District Court rescinded the environmental permit for Cirebon 2 coal-fired power plant in the lawsuit brought by residents.

A press conference was also held in Indonesia by concerned citizens fighting coal-fired power plants on the day of the latest court filing.

The Korean banks were cautious about commenting on the issue, saying they consider not only environmental standards but also regional conditions, including resident backlashes, when making investment decisions.

Korea is one of the top three investors in coal-fired power in the world and has built coal-fired power plants in many nations in Southeast Asia. The total funding provided to foreign coal projects by Korea Export-Import Bank and Korea Trade Insurance Corporation in the past 10 years amounts to 11.3 trillion won.

By Shin Ji-hye (