Massive Environmental and Health Damage from Oil Spill in Borneo

Spotlight Activity: Massive Environmental and Health Damage from Oil Spill in Borneo

At the end of March, Indonesia declared a state of emergency when a pipeline owned and operated by Indonesia’s state-owned oil and natural gas mining company, Pertamina, burst when a coal ship anchor dropped onto the 20 year old pipeline. The pipeline carries crude oil from East Kalimantan and runs along the bottom of Balikpapan Bay. The burst pipeline spewed crude oil in Borneo waters. So far, the crude oil has spread across 20,000 hectares of water. The refuse has contaminated 65 kilometers of coastline and is seeping into coastal mangroves and marine ecosystems. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF) recently reported that the oil spill has spread further to 130 square kilometers in the Balikpapan Bay. The oil has also caught fire, releasing black smoke over the nearby city of Balikpapan with a population of 700,000. Five people have been killed from the fire. The resulting smoke afflicts thousands more.

Status: Falling Behind

As of April 3rd, MoEF and Balikpapan environmental agency have cleaned up 18,300 gallons of oil and are deploying contaminant booms to contain the spilling crude oil. Volunteers and the military have also been helping. But, what is Pertamina doing? Not enough. Local environmental groups accuse Pertamina of being slow to respond to the crisis and failing to maintain and monitor infrastructure. In the first days of the crisis, Pertamina denied culpability. Pertamina continues to deny that the company was negligent. Balkipapan officials point out that Pertamina does not have a surveillance system to detect leaks and spills. The spills have already caused permanent damage to the gulf ecosystem. 1,300 citizens have reported nausea, vomiting, and breathing problems from the crude oil fires.

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Pertamina is responsible for this disaster. It must do more to clean up this mess and improve its practices. To take action, simply fill out your name and email in the form below and the message will be sent.

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