Indonesia

Indonesia: Mudflow body keeps plugging away

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The Sidoarjo Mudflow Mitigation Agency (BPLS) is continuing its efforts to overcome the disaster by attempting to manage the damaging flow of mud and to resolve related social problems. While BPLS continues to tackle the overwhelming problems associated with the disaster, the agency's performance has been subject to public scrutiny on an international scale.The following are excerpts from an interview by The Jakarta Post's Indra Harsaputra with BPLS head Soenarso.

What is your perception of the mudflow?

The mudflow is a natural disaster and it is exceptionally difficult to stop.

Many local and foreign journalists have asked when the mudflow will stop but I can only say it is in the hands of God Almighty.

The BPLS team is made up of mere human beings. And they are doing their best to stop and manage the hot mudflow.

Wegive up and we will continue to work harder - as per the President's orders and despite the difficult task.

We work continually, all day, everyday. We don't have time to have a cigarette or sometimes even to pray.

If one or two people in the team stop working, the embankment would collapse.

It's apparently difficult to predict nature's course.

Does BPLS consider the hot mudflow a natural disaster or human error caused by Lapindo?

I couldn't say for now because the police are still investigating the case.

We are making efforts to plug the gush point, preventing the mud from spreading further and urging Lapindo to immediately compensate affected residents.

We all know that it is no easy task. Every problem is complicated.

However, as a boy who grew up in the country-side, I understand people's wishes, especially residents affected by the hot mudflow.

They have been suffering for a long time and I hope they will soon be compensated so their suffering can end.

I also hope the victims remain patient and do not resort to acts of violence or create anarchy.keep urging Lapindo in my own way but I need your prayers to quickly overcome the problem.

What do you think about the counterweight dam method from Japan?

We have received dozens of proposals from agencies, experts and higher learning institutes and we are still studying the proposed methods thoroughly.

The government has to-date not made a decision regarding the best way forward or the best method to use.

They are considering a relief well, the insertion of a concrete ball and a counterweight dam to plug the mud volcano.

The decision is in the hands of the central government.

We are just working according to its instructions and the working team will use the best techniques.

But, I'm sorry, we can not yet reveal that to the public. We are still waiting for the government's decision.

BPLS is also evaluating reports from Surabaya's Institute of Technology (ITS) on the risk of land subduction, which has been going on for long.

And we are considering whether or not to relocate residents living around the Porong highway.

What about the approach of dumping mud into the Porong River - a method which still highly controversial?

We appreciate every proposal. I think everyone who cares for those affected by the mudflow looks to the various ideas proposed by experts with some hope.

However, the disposal of mud into the Porong River is a difficult choice.

I think it's best to kill the fish instead of the people.

And the BPLS has further evaluated other impacts and found dumping mud into the river is the best option.

So we are making efforts to channel hot mud into the river.

Is there political pressure involved in BPLS' job?

There is no pressure from any party. I only work and carry out orders from the government.

Once more, I only work in accordance with the orders from my superiors.

We need every support to overcome the hot mudflow disaster.