Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - Experts and a civil society group have urged the Indonesian government to conduct a more comprehensive probe into the impact of the Montara oil spill in the Timor Sea, off the northern coast of Western Australia.
"There are significant indications that the Montara oil spill has impacted Indonesian waters and local communities in the area," Mukhtasor, the executive director of the Indonesian Centre for Energy and Environmental Studies, said during a seminar marking the three-year anniversary of the spill in Jakarta recently.
Robert B. Spies, the president of Applied Marine Science in California and an independent advisor to the West Timor Care Foundation, which supports poor fishermen in eastern Indonesia, said the response to the oil spill had been lacking.
"There hasn't been an appropriate response from the government. We don't have that much data on the impact of the oil spill,' said Spies.
He said that the impact of the spill would linger for a long time in the area. "If it hits the beaches and the mangroves, it will stay for a long time," Spies said.
On Aug. 21, 2009, a blowout from the Montara wellhead platform occurred, spilling crude oil in the surrounding waters. Oil and gas leaks continued for 74 days until Nov. 3, 2009, and a permanent cap was installed a month later.
The oil rig, called the West Atlas, is owned by the Norwegian-Bermudan Seadrill and operated by Pttep Australasia, a subsidiary of Thai-owned oil and gas company PTT.
According to the Australian Commission of Inquiry, 400 to 1,500 barrels of oil leaked into the Timor Sea per day and eventually polluted over 90,000 square kilometres of the Timor Sea.
The disaster has affected at least nine regencies and thousands of fishermen.
According to Mukhtasor, a 2011 survey showed that seaweed production in 2009 averaged 1,360 kilograms per batch and declined by 71 per cent to 400 kilograms per batch after the oil rig incident. Prior to the spill, fishermen caught an average 1.92 tonnes/trip with a gross income of 17.24 million rupiah (US$1,824), which declined to an average 0.53 tonnes/trip for a gross income of 3.93 million rupiah after the incident.
Ferdi Tanoni, the chairman of the West Timor Care Foundation, said that thousands of local fishermen in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, were forced to relocate after the disaster.
"There were approximately 8,000 fishermen, but now there are only hundreds left," Tanoni told The Jakarta Post, adding that the community had rejected the compensation offered by the oil company.
"[The compensation] was in the form of CSR [corporate social responsibility]. CSR and compensation are two different things, so we rejected the offer," he said.