Indonesia braces for more environmental damage as oil slick widens

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This picture taken on April 2, 2018 shows an Indonesian policeman trying to clean Benua Patra beach after a nearby oil spill in Balikpapan. (AFP)
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This aerial picture taken on April 2, 2018 shows part of the oil spill on Kemala beach in Balikpapan. (AFP)
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An oil spill off Borneo island that led to five deaths and the declaration of a state of emergency was caused by a ruptured undersea pipe, Indonesia's national oil company Pertamina said on April 4. (AFP)
Updated 09 April 2018
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Indonesia braces for more environmental damage as oil slick widens

  • Oil slick from a ruptured undersea pipeline has sprawled to 20,000 hectares
  • The initial oil slick was detected on March 31
JAKARTA: Indonesia has launched a massive clean-up operation off the coast of Balikpapan, the provincial capital of East Kalimantan province, where an oil slick from a ruptured undersea pipeline has sprawled to 20,000 hectares, contaminating mangrove forests and marine life.
The initial oil slick was detected on March 31. “It will take months to recover from the environmental damage,” a marine campaigner from Greenpeace Indonesia, Arifsyah Nasution, told Arab News.
Environmental activists in Balikpapan have teamed up to collect evidence and assess the environmental damage, he said.
The city’s administration has declared a state of emergency as locals’ livelihoods suffer. The spill has killed at least one Irrawaddy dolphin, a rare and protected species.
State-owned oil company Pertamina told Arab News that the spill was caused by one of its undersea pipelines being “dragged more than 100 meters from its location.” Nasution said the crisis could have been minimized if Pertamina had responded more quickly.
The Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry said the likely culprit is a Panama-flagged coal ship that dropped its anchor in Balikpapan Bay, dragging one of the pipelines and causing it to rupture.
The ministry’s oil and gas director general, Djoko Siswanto, said ships are not permitted to drop anchors in the part of the bay where the pipelines are installed.
Environmental and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar has dispatched ministry officials to Balikpapan to spearhead the clean-up effort and assess the adverse impact on the bay’s ecosystem and biodiversity. Pertamina has deployed 15 cleaning vessels.
Bakar said the ministry team will measure the length of the coastline impacted by the spill. They found that it has so far polluted 34 hectares of mangrove wetlands in Kariangau village, and 6,000 mangrove trees in another village.
“We have asked Pertamina to prioritize cleaning the oil slick in waters close to human settlements to get rid of the oil’s nauseating smell and other imminent health hazards,” Bakar said.
The team is collecting temporary floating barriers from oil companies operating in the region to contain the spill.
“We are coordinating with the police, which will launch a criminal investigation into the case,” said Rasio Ridho Sani, the Forestry Ministry’s director general for law enforcement.
The ministry “will assist in determining the loss suffered by locals, and the compensation for those affected,” he added.
Octavinus, a search-and-rescue official in Balikpapan, said locals began to see the oil slick on March 31 and it burst into flames, burning two fishing boats.
An operation was immediately dispatched to rescue the fishermen, five of whom were killed, he added.
“A coal barge with 20 crew on board was sailing by, but the barge was only slightly damaged and the whole crew is safe,” he told Arab News.


Kosovo returns families of militants from Syria

Updated 14 min 54 sec ago
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Kosovo returns families of militants from Syria

  • More than 300 Kosovo citizens, men, women and children, have traveled to Syria since 2012
  • Police said some 150 women and children, including around 60 children that were born in war zones, were captured

PRISTINA: Dozens of women and children, relatives of Kosovo militants fighting in Syria, were flown back home by plane on Saturday under heavy security.
“The planned operation for the return of some of our citizens from Syria has ended successfully,” Justice Minister Abelrad Tahiri said at the airport early on Saturday.
Details would be released later in the day, he said.
After hours at the airport, two buses with women and children were transported under police escort to army barracks just outside Pristina.
More than 300 Kosovo citizens, men, women and children, have traveled to Syria since 2012. Some 70 men who fought alongside extremist militant groups were killed.
Police said some 150 women and children, including around 60 children that were born in war zones, were captured as Daesh lost ground.
It remained unclear if all of them were returned on Friday. Neither the minister nor police gave any details if any fighters were also returned.
International and local security agencies have previously warned of the risk posed by returning fighters. In 2015, Kosovo adopted a law making fighting in foreign conflicts punishable by up to 15 years in jail.
Kosovo’s population is nominally 90 percent Muslim, but largely secular in outlook.
There have been no Islamist attacks on its soil, although more than 100 men have been jailed or indicted on charges of fighting in Syria and Iraq. Some of them were found guilty of planning attacks in Kosovo.
The government said a form of radical Islam had been imported to Kosovo by non-governmental organizations from the Middle East after the end of its 1998-99 war of secession from Serbia.