Poso Farmers Lose Livelihoods Due to Poso Hydropower Dam Construction 1

Throughout his experience of farming in the area where he lives in Meko Village, Poso Regency, Central Sulawesi since 1987, Kristian Basompe knows very well when he can start the rice planting process each year.

For this 58-year-old farmer, planting can be done twice a year. The farmers in Meko Village know that they cannot plant from April to June because the intensity of the rain is quite high which causes the volume of water in Lake Poso to increase.

But now, an oddity seems to have occurred since the construction of the Poso 1 Hydroelectric Power Plant (PLTA) dam in 2019.

Poso 1 hydropower dam in Sulewana Village, North Pamona District, Poso Regency, Central Sulawesi, Tuesday (11/24/2020).  (Photo: Mouab/Yoanes Litha)

Poso 1 hydropower dam in Sulewana Village, North Pamona District, Poso Regency, Central Sulawesi, Tuesday (11/24/2020). (Photo: Mouab/Yoanes Litha)

According to the farmers, the presence of the Poso 1 hydropower dam, which was built on the river flowing from Lake Poso, causes the up and down pattern of the lake water to no longer occur naturally because it is influenced by the opening and closing of the dam’s floodgates.

“In the fourth, fifth and sixth months, farmers will not go down to their fields because the water season will rise, but now (for the last two years) they cannot (cultivate) their fields. (This incident) has never happened in Lake Poso,” said Kristian, who owns 1.5 hectares of rice fields in Meko Village, located in West Pamona District.

Ambrawati felt the same way. This 61-year-old woman has started farming at home in Toinasa Village, West Pamona District, since 2017 when the government, she said, introduced the rice field printing program.

A farmer points to a rice field area that is submerged by overflowing lake water in Meko Village, West Pamona District, Saturday (2/10/2021).  (Photo: Mouab/Yoanes Litha)

A farmer points to a rice field area that is submerged by an overflowing lake in Meko Village, West Pamona District, Saturday (2/10/2021). (Photo: Mouab/Yoanes Litha)

He told me that since his rice field area of ​​more than one hectare was submerged in lake water, his family has now lost their source of livelihood.

“With the current situation what can I get? All of our family’s economy is empty, nothing works. Suffering, I just need to borrow rice from the mill, I haven’t paid the debt until now,” complained Ambrawati.

On average, in every one hectare, he claimed to be able to get as much as three tons of rice from each planting season.

A total of 96 hectares of rice fields in Meko Village, Central Sulawesi, were submerged in Lake Poso water, allegedly caused by the Poso 1 hydropower dam, which is owned by PT Poso Energy. This situation has had a serious impact on the economy and food security of around 148 farming families who have lost their main source of livelihood.

“This is the problem with rice fields, the problem of life is there. This is a real basic right. Apart from eating their income, they use it for the needs of school children, then their health, building houses, everything depends on their income,” said I Gede Sukaartana, Head of Meko Village, West Pamona District in a meeting with the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission at the Mosintuwu Institute, Kota Tentena, on Thursday (30/9.

Meanwhile, he continued, now they can no longer cultivate their fields due to drowning since late 2019 until now.

I Gede said that in order to survive, the farmers are now working odd jobs, including looking for resin and pine resin in the forest.

Data from the Agriculture Office of Poso Regency, Tuesday (5/10), stated that a total of 226 hectares of rice fields on the shores of Lake Poso were affected based on verification carried out by Field Agricultural Extension officers.

A resident walks among rice fields that have not been cultivated since July 2020 because it is submerged in Lake Poso water.  Friday, November 6, 2020. Photo: Mosintuwu/RayRarea

A resident walks among rice fields that have not been cultivated since July 2020 because it is submerged in Lake Poso water. Friday, November 6, 2020. Photo: Mosintuwu/RayRarea

Potential Human Rights Violations

Chairman of the National Commission for Human Rights of the Republic of Indonesia, Ahmad Taufan Damanik, to FLY said the testimonies of the farmers showed that there had been ecological damage and disruption to the welfare of residents affected by the overflowing lake water which was allegedly caused by the hydropower dam.

“It can be seen that the impact of the (hydropower) project on the economic life of the surrounding community (for the last two years. It is clear that their rights in the field of welfare have been disturbed. It is clear that the potential for human rights violations has been violated,” said Ahmad.

As a follow-up, citizens can make an official complaint as a basis for Komnas HAM to take the next step, including deciding whether the case will be included in a case that will be mediated or monitored by Komnas HAM.

Chairman of the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission, Ahmad Taufan Damanik after meeting with farmers in Tentena, Poso Regency, Central Sulawesi, Thursday (30/9/2021) (Photo: Mouab/Yoanes Litha)

Chairman of the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission, Ahmad Taufan Damanik after meeting with farmers in Tentena, Poso Regency, Central Sulawesi, Thursday (30/9/2021) (Photo: Mouab/Yoanes Litha)

“Whichever is the choice (later), it is (all done) in the context of resolving the rights of the aggrieved citizens for their welfare. Loss of livelihood, including ecological damage, will certainly have an impact on other human rights, especially those we categorize as economic, social, cultural rights,” explained Ahmad.

He called on related parties to seriously look for solutions to solve the problems experienced by the farmers.

Rice Compensation

When contacted on Monday (4/10), PT Poso Energy stated that they are still fulfilling their responsibilities in responding to the impact of the Poso 1 hydropower dam construction, including by providing compensation in the form of rice for affected farmers based on the area of ​​rice fields that has been verified by the company’s field team. the.

The atmosphere of the meeting between the Chairperson of the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission and farmers affected by the overflowing Lake Poso, took place in Dodoha, Mosintuwu Institute, Tentena, Poso Regency, Thursday (30/9/2021).  (Photo: Mouab/Yoanes Litha)

The atmosphere of the meeting between the Chairperson of the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission and farmers affected by the overflowing Lake Poso, took place in Dodoha, Mosintuwu Institute, Tentena, Poso Regency, Thursday (30/9/2021). (Photo: Mouab/Yoanes Litha)

“In the short term, this is compensation for one planting period, it is at their own request. So we give rice according to the standards of the Department of Agriculture (for example) one hectare can be several tons,” said Irma Suriani, Head of the Department of Environment, Forestry and CSR of PT Poso Energy. However, he did not specify the amount of rice given to farmers.

According to Irma, several villages have received the compensation, including the villages of Tindoli and Tolambo. However, for Meko Village, his party was constrained by the attitude of the village government that did not allow the entry of the field verification team.

Irma explained that the construction of the Poso 1 hydropower dam has gone through the certification stages, namely design, construction and inundation certification. His party is preparing for the dam operational certification stage. Currently the Poso 1 hydropower dam is still in the trial phase until December 2021. [yl/rs]

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