BANGKOK – Greenpeace activists intercepted a barge carrying coal through the Karimunjawa archipelago from mines in Kalimantan in Indonesia on Wednesday.
The coal shipment was destined for power plants in Java, an island which is home to over half of Indonesia’s 141 million-strong population.
The activists aboard Greenpeace’s ship, the Rainbow Warrior, intercepted the barge and painted it with messages “Break Free From Coal” and “Coral Not Coal,” according to a press release by Greenpeace.
“This coal trade is destroying one of the most beautiful areas of Indonesia and one that the government has promised to protect as a national park. Yet a reef check shows that where the barges have hit the coral, 50% of the lifeforms are dead,” Greenpeace Indonesia’s Didit Haryo said.
The island archipelago nation is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of coal, much of which is destined for markets in India and China, according to the 2017 BP Statistical Review of World Energy.
Even though only around 20-30 percent of its coal is sold on the domestic market, Indonesia is the world’s 16th worst emitter of carbon dioxide, behind industrialized countries such as France and Italy.
It also fares poorly in comparison to other nations in the region, including Thailand, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia, according to a 2013 report cited by the CIA World Factbook.
In addition to carbon emissions, the industry and transportation of coal has had a severe impact on the health of marine life in Indonesia, which in turn has impacted the local economy, Greenpeace says.
“It’s not just the coral reefs paying the price, local fishermen are also affected. If the coral is destroyed, the tourist industry will be impacted too. Our home, community and livelihoods are being impacted by coal, but we don’t feel as though we have a voice in the energy debate,” said Yarhannudin, from local community-led group, Akar, according to Greenpeace.