Two new coal-fired power plants, PLTU 9 and 10, are being constructed in Suralaya, Indonesia to provide an additional 2,000 MW of installed electricity capacity. Seven coal-fired units already operate in Suralaya, with one other located in nearby Bojonegara village. The eight facilities, with a combined capacity of 4,025 MW, burn coal day in and day out to feed demand for power in the nearby capital, Jakarta, and its densely populated periphery.

But many residents who have to live next to these smokestacks and stockpiles are unhappy. Rice fields and community farms are often replaced by chimneys and stockpiles. Beaches are reclaimed and food crops can struggle as communities confront new tensions and resentment caused by invasive construction.

“The electricity is fine here,” former ward chief Jumani says. “So who else is it for? Where do they want to send it?”

Jumani’s complaint is common among the communities the world over who are forced to live in the shadow of coal plants.

In November 2020, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) initiated a lawsuit seeking the cancellation of the environmental permits issued for PLTU 9 and 10. The permits were issued in 2017, but Walhi says the construction should not have been approved because the specifications failed to meet the government’s own air pollution regulations.

Walhi cites an environment ministry regulation from 2019, which sets caps on emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, fine particulate matter and mercury, all of which are byproducts of coal-fired energy generation.

One resident of Suralaya, speaking at a demonstration last year, said the people faced a complex crisis. “The situation here is an emergency."

Read the full article about community resistance to coal-fired power plants by Della Syahni on Mongabay.