Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Earth Science News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Disaster tourism: bitter lifeline for mud volcano survivors
By Nick Perry
Sidoarjo, Indonesia (AFP) May 17, 2016

Harwati forces a smile as she guides visitors around a bubbling mud volcano in Indonesia, pausing as they snap selfies on the bleak wasteland she once called home.

These disaster tourists are a lifeline for the single mother who lost everything when the earth beneath a paddyfield near her village opened up without warning ten years ago, sending pungent, steaming mud bursting out, unabated.

The mudflow buried villages, factories, shops, and even a major highway in the Sidoarjo district of Java island. Thirteen people died when an underground gas pipeline in the disaster zone exploded, while thousands were left homeless.

Today Harwati and many others scrape a meagre living from the curious visitors who flock to see rooftops and debris poking above the bubbling mud lake.

"This is the only way to earn a living and afford school for my kids," said Harwati, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

"After my village was flooded, there were no jobs."

Visitors pose next to faceless statues lying semi-submerged in the mud, a silent reminder of the human toll of this disaster.

As victims prepare to mark 10 years since the start of the disaster, the mud geysers show no signs of stopping: The equivalent of 10 Olympic swimming pools of mud and water still spurt out daily.

An area roughly equivalent to 650 football fields is now buried beneath up to 40 metres (130 feet) of sludge.

Intrigue has surrounded the cause of the mudflow ever since it first gushed out in the densely-populated farming area on May 29, 2006. There are two main theories on what triggered it -- drilling for natural resources or an earthquake.

Mud volcanoes -- which don't spew out lava or hot ash but instead water and clay -- occur globally but Sidoarjo's is believed to be the biggest in the world.

Efforts to plug it, including with huge concrete balls, have proved futile. The area was declared a disaster zone and sealed off, with warning signs dotting the perimeter.

- Morbid fascination -

Undeterred, visitors still came and an impromptu industry has sprung up. Busloads of tourists arrive at weekends, and DVDs dramatising the disaster are hugely popular souvenirs.

"I was very intrigued. I really wanted to see how big the mud was, because I had heard many houses were buried," Andri, a tourist from Surabaya, told AFP.

Debate about what caused the strange phenomenon has only fuelled fascination, and protracted the fight for compensation.

Independent studies alternate blame between oil and gas company PT Lapindo Brantas, which was drilling in the area at the time, and an earthquake that struck two days earlier about 260 kilometres (162 miles) away.

Lapindo -- part of a business empire controlled by Indonesia's powerful Bakrie family -- was eventually ordered to compensate victims, but payments took years, triggering angry protests.

The government finally intervened last year and loaned Lapindo the funds to expedite the remaining payments.

Lapindo Brantas says on its website that after investigations, "it was determined that no correlation could be proven between the drilling activities and the mud eruption".

The Sidoarjo Mudflow Handling Agency, a government-backed taskforce, told AFP more than 3,300 households -- or 95 percent of those affected -- had now received payments.

- 'All was lost' -

Tens of thousands of litres of mud leak daily into the nearby rivers and a number of research surveys have detected high levels of heavy metals in the area, including one recent study by Java's University of Brawijaya.

Eco-campaigners warn this has serious implications for the local communities who rely on the waterways.

"It's not just found in the water or the sediment, but now in the body of the fish," said Rere Christanto, an activist with the Indonesian Forum for the Environment.

"The people who consume these fish, they're going to be affected. There's a real danger...There's a lot of heavy metal in that mud," he added.

Those living near the disaster site complain of health problems and contaminated land and water. Maksuri, a villager living next to one of the towering dykes, told AFP he was ineligible for compensation despite his water being often clouded with a foul-smelling yellow tinge.

Even some of those who received payouts have found little relief. Many spent virtually all their compensation paying off huge debts accrued setting up their lives from scratch, Christanto explained.

He said: "The compensation didn't make them rich." He has first hand experience -- his parents lost their home in the disaster.

Out at the geyser, tourists shriek as thick muck spurts out of the ground. The tour guides whoop and clap on cue, jokingly encouraging mother nature to put on a show for the visitors.

But once the crowds depart, the mood is sombre. Mud tourism has helped some entrepreneurial locals eke out a living from their tragedy, but the reality is far from rosy.

Sukampto had a "comfortable life" and a steady job at a furniture factory before the eruption upended his life.

Now he earns a pittance shuttling tourists around the disaster zone. He stops to point out where his village was -- now nothing but a crumbling wall protrudes from a swamp of clay.

He told AFP: "Mosques, schools, boarding houses: everything was lost."

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
Bringing Order To A World Of Disasters
When the Earth Quakes
A world of storm and tempest

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Accounting for volcanoes using tools of economics
New York NY (SPX) Apr 27, 2016
When Mount Tambora erupted in 1815, it spewed dust and sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere with a force more powerful than any eruption since. As the aerosols and particulates circulated around the globe, they cooled the planet, disrupting agriculture and leading to what became known as the "year without a summer." Scientists can read old descriptions of eruptions like Tambora and analy ... read more

Artist Ai Weiwei says Gaza key part of refugee crisis

Belgian prisons 'like North Korea' as strike crisis hits

Nepal's quake recovery costs up by a quarter

Rush on pillows at Canada evacuation center

Scientists take a major leap toward a 'perfect' quantum metamaterial

UW team first to measure microscale granular crystal dynamics

Self-healing, flexible electronic material restores functions after many breaks

Digital "clone" testing aims to maximize machine efficiency

Parasite helps sea snails survive ocean acidification

Philippines detains 25 Chinese, 18 Vietnamese fishermen

Victims of their own success

Acidification and low oxygen put fish in double jeopardy

Increased vegetation in the Arctic region may counteract global warming

'Sleeping giant' glacier may lift seas two metres: study

Shrinking shorebird pays the bill for rapid Arctic warming while wintering in the tropics

Scientists track Greenland's ice melt with seismic waves

Genetically engineered crops: Experiences and prospects

Farms have become a major air-pollution source

Illinois River water quality improvement linked to more efficient corn production

UN panel says weedkiller 'unlikely' to cause cancer

Sri Lanka president flies to flood-hit area, toll hits 37

One dead as aftershocks shake quake-weary Ecuador

Sri Lanka flood toll hits 11, thousands more homeless

Disaster tourism: bitter lifeline for mud volcano survivors

DR Congo denies getting pistols from North Korea

Senegal's child beggars show limits of 'apptivism'

S.Africa may re-consider regulated rhino horn trade in future

Climate-exodus expected in the Middle East and North Africa

From Israel's army to Hollywood: the meteoric rise of Krav Maga

New evidence that humans settled in southeastern US far earlier than previously believed

Climate change may have contributed to extinction of Neanderthals

Drawing the genetic history of Ice Age Eurasian populations

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement