On 12 April 2016, nine women from Mount Kendeng, Rembeng regency of Central Java encased their feet in cement in front of the State Palace, Jakarta in protest against the construction of a PT Semen cement plant.
The women hoped that the protest would symbolise the ‘shackling’ of their lives and their environments by cement. Riem Ambarwati, one of the protesters, described cement as ‘dead earth’ because no living thing can grow within it (Coconuts).
PT Semen began construction of their plant in June 2014 and have since experienced massive community backlash. The communities of Kendeng and also Pati, Grobogan and Blora, where other cement companies have plans to build; are mostly farmers and are concerned that the plant, being built upon the Watuputih groundwater basin area will greatly diminish their primary water source and so impact upon their livelihoods as farmers. The communities also point out that they have always been able to support themselves through farming and do not need or desire the jobs that the cement plants will provide.
The plant could potentially cause the loss of 51 million litres of water. Aside from community opposition the construction of the plant has met with opposition from environmental activists and academics who insist that the mountainous karst area must be preserved. The mining of limestone in the karst region, necessary for the production of cement will have detrimental impacts on the mountains underground water channels that provide water not only to the immediate area but also carry water farther afield.
The Kendeng community were granted an audience with President ‘Joko’ Jokowido who ordered further strategic environmental assessment (KLHS) and all permits to be annulled for the duration of the study. The assessment will involve the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and is estimated to take one year.
The affected communities still fear that this will not deter activities at the plant and plead for a respect of their environment and for dialogue between industrial contractors and local land holders, who in this case had never been previously consulted regarding the construction of the plant.
On 4 December 2016, Kendeng farmers set out to undertake a 150 km march from Rembang to Semarang. PT Semen Indonesia has not stopped its illegal activities at the cement plant and the villagers are petitioning the Supreme Court to take action. The week leading up to the march also saw a huge spike in cement factory advertising across Indonesian mass media channels, this may have fueled the decision to take further action against the large corporation.