Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Endless Lapindo Tragedy

Three years have passed since the Hot Mud flow began in Sidoarjo, East Java, flooding its surrounding farmlands, house/office/warehouse buildings, and displacing thousands of families.

According to Wikipedia, the Mud flow started on 29 May 2006, when PT. Lapindo Brantas drilled a borehole for Gas in the Brantas area. In the first stage, the Drill String first went through a thick clay seam (500-1,300 m deep), then sands, shells, volcanic debris and finally into permeable carbonate rocks. At this stage the borehole was surrounded by a Steel Casing to help stabilize it. Later, second stage of drilling began and the Drill String went deeper to about 2,834 m, this time without protective Steel Casing, causing eruption of water steam and a small amount of gas followed by other eruptions on June. Considering that borehole protection by steel casing is a common procedure in oil or gas exploration, therefore the most likely cause of the Mud Flow is PT Lapindo’s failure to use the Steel Casing in the second stage of their drilling operation.
However, there is controversy on what has caused the eruption and whether or not it was a natural disaster. PT Lapindo Brantas said the Mud Flow eruption was not triggered by their drilling activities, but by an Earthquake with a 6.3 Richter scale Earthquake that hit Central Java & Yogyakarta two days before the mud eruption killing 6,234 people.

After investigations by independent experts, police have concluded the mud flow was an "underground blow out", triggered by the drilling activity. It is also noted that the Steel Casing lining had not been used which could have prevented the disaster.
The government announced that PT Lapindo Brantas must compensate thousands of victims affected by the mud flows. A criminal investigation was then started against several senior executives of the company because the drilling operation has put the lives of local people at risk. But unfortunately, the compensation has still not been fully given, and result of legal actions seems to be fruitless.

The most interesting thing is that although the Lapindo Mud Flow has been going on for so long and victimized so many people without any clear solution, however it has not seemed to attract political parties competing in the Parliamentary Elections last April. Even the Ulama in East Java prefer to discuss about other things like Facebook, than about the Lapindo Mud Flow.

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