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Let Them Raise Catfish Says Indonesian Minister As Future For Mud Volcano Victims

The mudflow, near Indonesia's second-largest city of Surabaya in East Java, has caused more than three billion dollars worth of losses and displaced about 15,000 households.
by Staff Writers
Jakarta (AFP) Jul 05, 2007
Hundreds of hectares of land inundated by sludge spewed from a devastating "mud volcano" in Indonesia should be developed to raise catfish, a minister said Thursday. "We have tested this and it has been proven that catfish can be raised in ponds made of the mud," environment minister Rachmat Witoelar told AFP. Witoelar said the government's priority was now to try to reduce the mud outflow or halt it if possible, but that long term plans were being prepared to make use of the land currently submerged by the mud.

"It is a long-term plan. If the mud flow is difficult to control, then we have to make use of the land, and it will also provide livelihood for the victims," the minister said, referring to the thousands of people who had become homeless because of the mud volcano.

He said that the government estimated that some 500 of the 600 hectares (1,500 acres) covered in the mud could be turned into catfish ponds.

The mudflow began in May last year when Lapindo Brantas, a company linked to Indonesia's welfare minister, was drilling for gas without proper equipment.

Engineers have tried to plug the unusual volcano by dropping concrete balls on chains into its yawning crater to no avail. A plan to build a massive concrete dam 15 storeys high is now being mulled.

The mudflow, near Indonesia's second-largest city of Surabaya in East Java, has caused more than three billion dollars worth of losses and displaced about 15,000 households.

Experts are unsure how long the crater will spew mud if left unchecked, with some suggesting it could be years.

related report
Furore over spa planned on active Philippines volcano
Manila (AFP) July 4 - A project to build a spa on the rim of one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines was in danger of being scuttled Wednesday by government regulators.

A South Korean group, Jung Ang Interventure, stands to lose its government permit to build a 72 million-peso (1.57 million-dollar) spa-resort on Taal volcano south of Manila unless it meets a range of environmental requirements.

Unless the company fulfils the demands by Thursday its environmental clearance certificate (ECC) will be withdrawn, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Angelo Reyes said in a statement.

Company spokesmen could not be reached for comment.

Jung Ang bought a six-hectare (15-acre) area in Talisay town around Taal's crater rim that forms part of a 60,000-hectare (148,200-acre) protected area of the volcano.

It won the backing of the Talisay municipal council and the project was launched in November 2006.

Taal has erupted 33 times in the last 400 years, the last one being in 1977, and government experts at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology have expressed grave reservations about the project.

"Building a structure at the permanent danger zone (around the crater) should be prohibited because this will endanger lives," the institute's director, Renato Solidum, said at a recent public hearing on the project.

He said volcanic activity has increased in recent weeks with the frequency of volcanic quakes rising and with the crater island showing signs of bulging.

The environment and natural resources department said, amid protests from Talisay residents, that the building of viewing decks, an elevator and an access road did not necessarily violate the law on protected areas.

The protesters fear the project would displace some residents and damage their farms and fishing grounds.

The department suspended the project's environmental clearance certificate last week and gave the company seven days to secure all permits, including from the seismology institute, and to revise aspects of the project.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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