Indonesia: Central Kalimantan Railway Gets Thumbs Down from Jokowi Administration

Date of publication: 
8 December 2014

Jakarta – The Minister for National Development Planning (Bappenas), Adrinof Chaniago, said last week that he would not put the Central Kalimantan Railway in the Medium Term Development Plan for 2015-2019, thus withdrawing all central government support for the project. The project would not get the status of a Public Private Partnership and would not be provided with government guarantees.

The statement was made by Mr. Chaniago in a meeting with WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia on Thursday, December 4th at the Ministry of National Development Planning -Bappenas.* Without central government support and government guarantees, it will be very difficult to attract financing for the railway, especially in the current depressed market for thermal coal.

The 425-km long Central Kalimantan Railway would allow up to 50 million tonnes of coal to be shipped out of Central Kalimantan’s rainforests every year, opening up huge tracts of rainforest to coal mines, including BHP Billiton’s controversial IndoMet mine. A consortium led by China National Railway won the tender to develop the railway in April 2014, but the project was awaiting finalisation of government regulations and financing. The railway was a part of the Masterplan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia’s Economic Development – or MP3EI – a plan developed by the previous government to build a series of infrastructure projects to accelerate the mining of coal and other natural resources in Indonesia.

The Ministry believes the rail development is contrary to government policy, which is to encourage the use of coal for domestic interests rather than export. The Ministry also believes that the project will benefit large mining companies and not the general population. This is in line with the vision and mission of the Jokowi-Kalla administration, which states that the “priority of coal and gas is to increase electricity production in the country to serve the needs of households and industry.”

Abetnego Tarigan, Executive Director of WALHI said, “This railway threatens the last remaining forests in Central Kalimantan. Until now, the forests in the northern part of Central Kalimantan have been protected from coal expansion due to their isolation and difficulties in transporting the coal out of the area. Many native Dayak people continue to depend on the forests and river for food, transportation, water and many other aspects of their lives.”

Arie Rompas, Director of WALHI Central Kalimantan said, “Central Kalimantan, particularly the Murung Raya regency in the north, has a population density of 4 people per square kilometer. The proposed Central Kalimantan Railway is not needed for local people, and would be built to enable large quantities of coal to be mined and shipped to Asian markets. We welcome the decision by Mr. Chaniago to put a stop to this project. We now call on the Central Kalimantan Provincial government to put a halt to all plans to develop this railway.”

For further information, contact:

Pius Ginting (Head of Research Unit, WALHI), 081 932 925 700, pius.walhi [at] gmail [dot] com

Arie Rompas (Director of WALHI Central Kalimantan), 081 388 446 422, arie.rompas [at] gmail [dot] com

  • WALHI staff present at the meeting with Mr. Adrinof Chaniago include Abetnego Tarigan (National Executive Director), Khalisah Khalid (Head of the Department of Research and Resource Mobilization), Edo Rahman (Campaign Manager), Arie Rompas (Director of WALHI Central Kalimantan) and Pius Ginting (Head of Research Unit).