Indonesian Government Says Oil From Australian Spill Has Polluted Parts of

Eras Poke & Fidelis E Satriastanti

Kupang. The regional environmental management agency in East Nusa Tenggara

confirmed on Tuesday that the waters of the Timor Sea had been contaminated
by oil spilled in August from a well operated by a Thai company.

The Montara oil well, which is located in Australian waters, began spewing a
reported 400 barrels of oil a day into the ocean on Aug. 21, creating an oil
slick at least 100 times the size of Sydney Harbor. The well, which is
operated by Thailand’s PTT Exploration and Production Australasia, is
located about 700 kilometers west of Darwin.

More than two months after the oil spill started, efforts to stop the leak
have yielded little result, with oil now spreading to at least 6,000 square

“Water samples we took on Oct. 10 tested positive for oil suspected to have
come from the Montara oil field,” said Oematan, the head of the agency,
which is also known as the BPLHD.

He added that the samples had been taken from the waters off Kolbano Beach
in Kualin village, South Central Timor district.

Oematan said the agency conducted further tests on Friday to determine the
spread of the oil in the Timor Sea. Samples were taken from four locations,
two in the southern part of Rote Island, near Ashmore Island, and two in the
waters off Kolbano.

The agency, he said, had reported the results to East Nusa Tenggara Governor
Frans Lebu Raya, as well as to the Environmental Management Center in
Denpasar, because the issue involved both Australia and Indonesia.

Oematan said his agency was awaiting the results of meetings on the issue
between the central government in Jakarta and the provincial government.

In its report, he said, the agency recommended further investigation of the
source of the pollution off Kolbano Beach. It also called for the government
to set up a team that could respond to the spill, and establish an early
warning system in case the oil continued to spread in Indonesian waters.

Oematan said that if left unattended, the Montara oil spill could harm
marine life in the country’s waters, especially in the Timor Sea. He said
the threat posed by the spill required the central government in Jakarta to
cooperate with Australia to manage the problem.

The Directorate of Marine Transportation at the Ministry of Fisheries and
Maritime Affairs began monitoring pollution levels in the Timor Sea on Oct.
23 to determine the severity of the problem after local fishermen reported
finding clumps of crude oil in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

Rote Ndao district head Leonard Haning said he had received information that
fishermen from Rote and Kupang districts had discovered hundreds of dead
fish in Indonesian waters.

He said that in response, his office had ordered the fishermen not to offer
the dead fish for consumption, pending the results of an investigation by a
team of experts from the Directorate of Marine Transportation.

Meanwhile, Riza Damanik, secretary general of the Fisheries Justice
Coalition (Kiara), urged the government to send a letter of protest to the
Australian government over the oil spill.

“A letter of protest would be a diplomatic step taken by the government of
Indonesia to urge the Australian government to accept responsibility for its
neglectful handling of marine pollution,” Riza said.

“Since the incident occurred in the transboundary part of the sea where
maritime borders are not recognized, it would also be a good idea to write
to a world organization like the UN,” he added.

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