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8 Dec 2020

Meiki W. Paendong, Diplomat (USA)

Indonesia: Jakarta-Bandung Rail Project criticized for failing to account for social impacts

"The Jakarta-Bandung Rail Project: 5 Years On and Still Going Nowhere", 3 December 2020

Five years ago, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo awarded the $5.5 billion Jakarta-Bandung High Speed Rail project to a company from China. At the time, the project was hailed as a major win for Beijing, one that bolstered its  Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) dream in Indonesia. Today, however, the project has turned into a nightmare, resulting in forced evictions, flooded roads, damaged houses and farmland, mass protests, and massive budget overruns, not to mention violations of at least six Indonesian laws. Despite an original May 2019 completion deadline, the Jakarta-Bandung High Speed Rail project is still going nowhere. [...]

Perhaps the biggest red flag, however, related to the failure of the project and its backers to obtain free, prior, informed consent of the communities that currently live along the proposed rail route. [...] According to local communities, the rail line will strip hundreds of households from their farmlands, thus dispossessing them of their traditional economic livelihoods. This fear has led to widespread, recurring protests along the proposed 142-kilometer rail route since 2015. [...]

In 2016 and 2017, on behalf of local communities, Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (WALHI) West Java sent repeated letters of concern to China Development Bank and Chinese government agencies regarding the above issues. To date, we have never received a response. [...]