Kupang – Residents living along the coast of West Timor in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) are worried about the impacts of an oil spill in the Timor Sea originating from a leaking well head in Australia. A Kolbano resident, Daniel Missa, said dozens of residents had experienced nausea and skin irritation after eating dead fish found along the beach.
“Residents didn’t know why the fish were dead, so they picked them up and ate them. They apparently suffered from itchiness, felt nauseous and vomited,” said Daniel. A fisherman in Oesapa subdistrict in Kupang, Ridwan, 34, who had just returned from fishing in the Timor Sea on Monday, said that the sea was filled with a crude oil slick. “The surface of the sea is covered by masses of crude oil resembling sand,” said Ridwan.
A large part of the slick is in Indonesian waters, he said, but so far none of the authorities have taken responsibility for cleaning the oil spill. “Eight of my colleagues and I saw with our own eyes the dead fish floating on the surface at a distance of around 300 kilometers, emitting a foul smell,” he said. The Montara oil field, located around 690 kilometers west of Darwin, North Australia, and 250 kilometers north west of Truscott in Western Australia, exploded on AuAug. 21, releasing huge volumes of crude oil across waters in the region.
The oil spill, reaching a volume of 500,000 liters per day, is moving close to Timor Island, located only 70 nautical miles from the oil field. “The oil slick is expected to arrive in Kolbano, a densely populated area in South Central Timor regency, by the second week of October,” said West Timor Care Foundation director Ferdi Tanoni at a press conference in the provincial capital of Kupang on Wednesday.
Tanoni said his organization would immediately coordinate with activists from Green Peace Indonesia and the mining legal network to file a protest against the government and Australia for not paying attention to the environmental destruction. “The oil spill took place a month ago but neither countries have taken any concrete steps to overcome the problem. East Nusa Tenggara residents are the most at risk, and environmental destruction has further worsened,” he said.
Tanoni urged the Australian government to take measures to clean up the oil spill that has polluted Indonesian waters, especially the Timor Sea, following complaints from traditional fishermen about their contaminated catch. “Based on the latest report from the West Timor Care Foundation network in Australia, more than 500,000 liters of crude oil have been discharged and have polluted the Timor Sea after an oil platform in the Montara oil field blew up.
“The oil slick is expected to reach Timor Island, Rote and Sumba in the next two weeks because the oil spill has currently reached 6,000 square kilometers,” Tanoni said on Tuesday. Tanoni added that dozens of fishermen working around Pasir Island and waters off Timor, had returned empty-handed because a large part of the sea was covered in oil and fish had died. East Nusa Tenggara Governor Frans Leburaya has urged the Australian government and the oil company operating the Montara oil field PTT Exploration and Production Pcl, Thailand’s only publicly traded oil exploration company – to accept responsibility for the incident.
Source: The Jakarta Post , October 1, 2009
Article by Yemris Fointuna