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Rejecting Drowning, Residents of Pari Island Officially Sue Holcim in Swiss Court

Residents of Pari Island, Thousand Islands, Jakarta, officially sued Holcim Limited to a Swiss court, Tuesday (31/1/2023). They see Holcim as a company contributing to exacerbating the climate crisis, and threatening the island’s very existence.

Previously, in October 2022, a Swiss court mediated between the residents of Pari Island and Holcim in a conciliation hearing. Because no agreement was found, 3 months later, Pari Island residents officially filed a lawsuit with the Swiss Court.

Arief Pujianto, a resident of Pari Island, explained that the lawsuit is an effort to maintain the sustainability of the island and stop economic losses due to the climate crisis. He said rising sea water had prevented plants such as chilies, tomatoes, bananas and papayas from growing.

Rising sea water also has an impact on damaging residents’ houses made of wood and bamboo, as well as a number of electronic furniture and household furniture. “On that basis, we are confident in suing this matter,” said Arief Pujianto in a press conference that took place at the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) Office, Friday (3/2/2023).

For fishermen, the climate crisis has added to their worries. Fish are hard to come by, the weather is more often unfriendly, plus natural signs are no longer predictable. The problem was compounded by damages on land which forced them to give up working time to make a number of repairs.

“The impact was extraordinary, massive abrasion on Pari Island,” said Mustaghfirin, another resident of Pari Island. “This island isn’t that big. If the water keeps rising, it’s not impossible that it will sink.”

Rising sea levels also contribute to reducing economic income in the tourism sector. Edi, the Pari Island tourism businessman, explained that several times tourists had to cancel their visits because they heard information that seawater had hit the island.

If the climate crisis is not resolved, it will not only lose the economy of the residents, but also the life and existence of the island itself. “I’m worried that later my children and grandchildren will no longer be able to live and live on Pari Island, because the island has sunk,” he said.

Asmaniah, a female fisherman from Pari Island, explained that climate problems on the island have also multiplied women’s burdens, both in household and economic affairs. The jammed family income due to bad weather made the women on the island think and work even harder.

“I am not fighting for myself, all Pari Island residents feel the impact of climate change. If the company doesn’t want to take responsibility, what will happen to our children and grandchildren?” asked Asmaniah.

On the basis of these problems, residents demanded that Holcim mitigate by reducing emissions, make environmental adaptations by planting one million mangroves and be responsible for losses and damage on the island.

Inspiration for Small Islands

According to a report by Walhi and HEKS, a Swiss church aid agency, climate change has submerged 11% of Pari Island’s landmass. Without repairs, by 2050, seawater will submerge most of the island’s landmass.

However, the threat of drowning does not only apply to Pari Island. Around 110 islands in the Thousand Islands are said to have a similar fate if the climate crisis is not addressed immediately. Suci Fitria Tanjung, Executive Director of Walhi Jakarta, explained that 6 islands in the Thousand Islands have sunk. Among them are the islands of Big Ubi, Little Yam, Talak, Big Mosquitoes (Nirwana), Dakun and Air Kecil islands.

Talak Island, he gave an example, in 2003 the area reached 3,957 m 2 , but in 2022 it will only be 2,201 m 2 . This means that in 10 years, the area of ​​the island has decreased by 1,000 m 2 . In the most extreme conditions, it is estimated that around 23 of the 110 islands in the Thousand Islands will sink before 2045.

“This lawsuit by the residents of Pari Island deserves to represent the people of the Seribu Islands, Jakarta Bay, as well as communities of other coastal and small islands,” said Suci.

Parid Ridwanudin, Walhi’s National Executive Coastal and Small Islands Campaign Manager added, in a broader scope, the climate crisis threatens the existence of 83 small frontier islands, as well as 115 islands in Indonesia’s deep waters.

Calls against drowning have also been conveyed by leaders of island nations in the Pacific such as Fiji, Vanuatu and Solomon. When the small island nations sank, they would seek asylum in nearby countries. Thus, in the future the world will be faced with what Parid calls climate refugees.

“Walhi and the plaintiffs urge Holcim and industries that exploit natural resources to immediately reduce emissions. Because, if they don’t reduce emissions, they will become the main actors in the sinking of small islands in the world,” he said.

Parid hopes that the Government of Indonesia will provide support for the claim by the residents of Pari Island. This is because the existence of small islands and the outermost islands is closely related to state sovereignty.

Holcim, in a report France24 , said it does not believe that court cases focused on one company are an effective mechanism for addressing the global complexities of climate action. They claim to have taken a rigorous, science-driven approach, set ambitious climate targets, and been pioneers in the construction sector.

As quoted from The Guardian , Holcim stated that it has reduced the absolute emissions of scope 3 by 90% by 2050. By 2030, the company has a target of reducing the intensity of CO 2 and the amount of CO 2 emissions per ton of cement material.

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