Coal Indonesia Debate

Co-authored with Nicole Ghio, Sierra Club International Climate Program

As two community leaders fighting the Batang coal plant in Indonesia begin their seven month prison sentence this week in Indonesia, thousands of coal activists activists are protesting in solidarity.

In what is viewed as punishment for refusing to sell their land to make way for the $4 billion Central Java coal-burning power plant in Batang, Indonesia, Cayadi bin Rabu and Carman bin Tuyah were accused of mistreating pro-coal activists in April 2012 and thrown in jail. Fortunately, judges in the district and high courts found them not guilty.

But, more than two years later, the Supreme Court in Indonesia has reversed that decision and sentenced Cayadi and Carman to seven months in prison.

Now, local residents are protesting in front of the District Attorney's office in Central Java as part of their continued opposition to the Batang coal project. By banding together and refusing to sell their land, five local communities have done the unthinkable and already forced the delay of this multi-billion dollar project by more than two years.

But the deep-pocketed dirty coal industry is doing it all it can to drown these community voices out. Despite fierce resistance, the coal industry and its backers are working to acquire land for the Central Java coal project as quickly as possible, while the communities continue to refuse their demands. And big coal has big money to back them up from both Japanese corporations and the World Bank.

Unfortunately, this is just one of the more recent abuses surrounding global coal-burning power plants. Just yesterday, coal activists in India were arrested following a peaceful protest of coal mining in the forests of Mahan, India. This is unfortunately the reality for those brave enough to stand up to this reckless and devastating industry and protect their communities and their environment.

But it's not too late to change course.

It's time for major financing corporations -- like the World Bank -- to live up to their promises to stop funding overseas coal projects. With major U.S. institutions like Stanford University now divesting from coal, the dirty fuel industry is on the run, and will hopefully take its violence and intimidation with it.

But this will only happen if we hold the feet of these institutions to the fire. The World Bank must immediately withdraw financing from those pushing the Batang coal project. Until then, activists like Cayadi and Carman, who stand up to coal interests, will continue to be harassed and wrongfully arrested.

Photo Credit: Coal and Activism/shutterstock