August 29, 2018

Two types of tectonic plate activity create earthquake and tsunami risk on Lombok

Several large earthquakes have struck the Indonesian island of Lombok in the past week, with the largest quake killing at least 380 people and injuring hundreds more. Thousands of buildings are damaged and rescue efforts are being hampered by power outages, a lack of phone reception in some areas and limited evacuation options. The majority of large earthquakes occur on or near Earth’s tectonic plate boundaries – and these recent examples are no exception. However, there are some unique conditions around Lombok. The recent earthquakes have occurred along a specific zone where the Australian tectonic plate is starting to move over the Indonesian island plate – and not slide underneath it, as occurs further to the south of Lombok. This means there is earthquake and tsunami risk not only along the plate boundary south of Lombok and Bali, but also from this zone of thrusting to the north.


Jammed subduction zone

Tectonic plates are slabs of the Earth’s crust that move very slowly over our planet’s surface. Indonesia sits along the “Pacific Ring of Fire” where several tectonic plates collide and many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur. Some of these earthquakes are very large, such as the magnitude 9.1 quake off the west coast of Sumatra that generated the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. This earthquake occurred along the Java-Sumatra subduction zone, where the Australian tectonic plate moves underneath Indonesia’s Sunda plate. But to the east of Java, the subduction zone has become “jammed” by the Australian continental crust, which is much thicker and more buoyant than the oceanic crust that moves beneath Java and Sumatra. The Australian continental crust can’t be pushed under the Sunda plate, so instead it’s starting to ride over the top of it. This process is known as back-arc thrusting. The data from the recent Lombok earthquakes suggest they are associated with this back-arc zone. The zone extends north of islands stretching from eastern Java to the island of Wetar, just north of Timor. Historically, large earthquakes have also occurred along this back-arc thrust near Lombok, particularly in the 19th century but also more recently. It is thought that this zone of back-arc thrusting will eventually form a new subduction zone to the north along from eastern Java to the island of Wetar just north of Timor.


Tsunami risk

Lombok’s recent earthquakes – the August 5 6.9 magnitude quake plus a number of aftershocks, and the 6.4 magnitude earthquake just a week before it – occurred in northern Lombok under land, and were quite shallow. Earthquakes on land can sometimes cause undersea landslides and generate a tsunami wave. But when shallow earthquakes rupture the sea floor, much larger and more dangerous tsunamis can occur. Due to the large number of shallow earthquakes along the plate boundaries, Indonesia is particularly vulnerable to tsunamis. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed more than 165,000 people along the coast of Sumatra, and in 2006 over 600 people were killed by a tsunami impacting the south coast of Java. The region around Lombok has a history of tsunamis. In 1992 a magnitude 7.9 earthquake occurred just north of the island of Flores and generated a tsunami that swept away coastal villages, killing more than 2,000. Nineteenth century earthquakes in this region also caused large tsunamis that killed many people. The areas around Lombok and the islands nearby, including Bali, are at high risk for earthquakes and tsunamis occurring both to the north and the south of the island. Unfortunately, large earthquakes like the ones this week cannot be predicted, so an understanding of the hazards is vital if we are to be prepared for future events.         [The Conversation Aug 13, 2018]


Court rejects bid to stop expansion of coal-fired power plant in Bali

The Denpasar Administrative Court has rejected a legal challenge by Bali residents attempting to halt the expansion of a coal-fired power plant on the island, the environmental group Greenpeace said on Friday (17/08). Three people living near the Celukan Bawang Power Plant in Buleleng district, on the northern side of the island, had tried to stop the planned expansion due to pollution fears. “The judge only used the perspective of our opponents,” said Didit Wicaksono, a climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Indonesia, which backed the legal challenge. “We are very sad about the decision,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adding that an appeal in a higher court was now planned. The legal bid claimed that the expansion, which would more than double power capacity at the site, would be a setback to the remote area’s tourism and fishing industries.

The expansion would lead to increased air and water pollution, damage crops and have a negative effect on wildlife at the nearby West Bali National Park, the plaintiffs argued. In its ruling on Thursday, the court said the action “had no legal standing” and that new technology would be able to mitigate the risk of pollution, according to Greenpeace. The court also ruled that expansion work should not be halted during any appeal process, Wicaksono said, adding that activists and community members are planning to protest near the plant. General Energy Bali, which runs the Celukan Bawang Power Plant, could not be reached for comment. Energy Ministry spokesman Agung Pribadi said by phone that the government would respect the court’s ruling. In a statement, one of the plaintiffs, I Ketut Mangku, said pollution from the coal plant has negatively affected the health of both his family and his crops. “The planned expansion is going to be even more harmful with far reaching impact,” he said.

Indonesia is among the fastest-growing countries for energy consumption due to a steadily increasing population, economic development and a rise in urbanization. Like other Asian nations, the government faces the challenge of boosting electricity access while meeting its pledge to cut climate-changing emissions under the Paris Agreement. Indonesia’s emissions targets can only be achieved by reducing its reliance on coal power and ramping up investment in clean, renewable energy projects, electricity experts say. [Jakarta Globe August 18, 2018]


Lombok quake sends shudders through tourist  industry

The powerful earthquakes that struck the Indonesian island of Lombok in recent weeks killing some 400 people have sent  holidaymakers fleeing, raising questions about how its lucrative tourism sector will bounce back. Two deadly tremors a week apart – accompanied by dozens of aftershocks – wrought widespread damage on homes and livelihoods, striking during the crucial tourism season, when hotels, local businesses and seasonal workers earn the bulk of their annual revenue. In the Gili Islands, a popular backpacker and diving destination just off Lombok’s northern coast, thousands of terrified tourists jostled on powder-white beaches for departing boats. Lombok’s airport was briefly crammed with holidaymakers rushing to get flights out, while the main tourist drag of Senggigi has been left deserted.

Alfan Hasandi depended on peak season tourists to see his family through the rest of the year. He and his brothers ran a now shuttered business on one of the islands, Gili Air, offering boat tickets, snorkeling, trekking and vehicle rentals, usually earning five million rupiah ($350) a day during peak season. “We hope we can rebuild… but it’s impossible because people are still traumatized,” the 25-year-old told AFP. “Our homes have been completely destroyed… We don’t have money to rebuild, we need help.” Located in the one of the most tectonically active areas in the world, Indonesians are used to natural disasters and its tourism industry has bounced back from catastrophes in the past. But for Lombok, the quakes struck at an especially cruel time, when the island’s tourism industry was on the way up.

Dubbed “The Island of a Thousand Mosques”, Muslim-majority Lombok was always a path less travelled destination than its bigger neighbor Bali, the Hindu-majority island that forms the backbone of Indonesia’s $19.4 billion tourist sector. But it had been  earmarked as one of Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s “10 new Balis” with the regional government hoping to develop it into a major destination, especially in the booming halal tourism sector. Its residents now have to repair and rebuild, hoping that spooked tourists return. Senggigi would normally be bustling with visitors this time of year. Now boats lie idle along its main beach, restaurants and hotels have been shuttered on its main drag and the usual stream of touts offering services has dried up. “We don’t know whether we can operate again in September,” Susi Hayati, manager of the Asmara restaurant, told AFP. Ketut Jaya, manager of the nearby Holiday Resort Lombok, said it might be a month before they could start taking guest bookings again. Just 19 of the resort’s 189 rooms were occupied by hardy tourists who decided not to leave after the quake. Authorities estimate the damage unleashed by the two quakes on buildings and infrastructure on Lombok will exceed two trillion rupiah ($138 million).

But while the post-quake images of destruction and departing tourists were dramatic, analysts predict tourism in the region will recover after short-term pain. Indonesia’s tourism sector has been robust in the face of major crises before, including natural disasters like the 2004 tsunami and terror attacks such as the 2002 Bali bombings. “The impact is not as big as a tsunami and the (Lombok) airport is still open,” Tedjo Iskandar, a Jakarta-based travel analyst with TTC Travel Mart, told AFP. Asnawi Bahar, chairman of Indonesia’s tour and travel agency association, described the earthquake as a “temporary shock” for the sector. The number of visitors to Bali plummeted following the 2002 bombings, which targeted a nightclub and bar frequented by Western tourists. The attacks killed more than 200 people and shocked the world. But the island soon regained its status as one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations. That is little comfort for people like Vina Kartika, who used to work on Gili Trawangan, where one of her friends was killed in the quake, and has currently lost her seasonal tourism job. “I will now have to stay at home, doing nothing,” she said.

On Gili Air island, some hotels were flattened but others survived. A diving school was barricaded with wood panels and furniture to keep intruders out. A supermarket in the middle of the island was completely empty, its windows broken. Hasandi said he is trying to remain upbeat, and he said lessons can be learned from the Bali’s recovery. “People were scared back then but then came back,” he said. “This is a natural disaster, so it should be OK – God willing.” [APF August 12, 2018]


Fake News Alert: Bali not being sold off to pay debts, says Indonesian finance minister

A viral social media posting reporting that Indonesia’s finance minister wants to sell Bali off in a bid to pay off the country’s debts is pure hoax, says the minister herself, Sri Mulyani Indrawati. Not only is the whole thing fabrication, but authorities are hunting for the netizen behind the “false posting”, because this hoax is a massive case of defamation, according to Indrawati. The viral social media post was initially published in October 2017 by a profile using the name “Sandy Yah”, but the link was later removed and the account disappeared.

However, it was re-uploaded and shared on Friday, leading the Minister of Finance to issue a statement via Instagram on Sunday night. “The Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia is not for sale. The Republic of Indonesia, since being proclaimed by our nation’s founding, we continue to maintain our sovereignty and independence,” reads the posting on Indrawati’s official Instagram account. The minister continues in her statement to explain the sovereignty of the country and how policies are openly shared on the ministry’s website.

“The community must be more careful and not believe in slanderous and fake news,” she adds. “The fake news circulation was intentionally carried out to attack the government, fiscal policy, and state finance in an unfounded manner and attack the Minister of Finance personally. “Legal action will be taken against the creator and spreader of hoax news.” [Coconuts Bali August 13, 2018]


Australian juvenile delinquent detained for stealing Rp. 13.6 million in wrist watches from Bali airport duty free shop

Australian news media and report that a 17-year-old boy identified with the initials CJ was detained before boarding a flight back home on Saturday, August 11, 2018, accused of stealing two wrist watches from the duty-free shop in the International Departure Terminal of Bali’s Airport. Because the boy is under aged, police from the juvenile crime division from Denpasar were called in to handle the case. Police say that CJ was seen by employees at a watch shop shoplifting two time-pieces with a total value of Rp. 13.6 million. The Australian Courier Mail identified the youth as hailing from Mermaid Waters on the Gold Coast of Australia who was traveling with a step brother at the time of the incident. The boy’s father and stepmother were originally scheduled to fly back to Australia the day after the purported theft. In order to prevent CJ from mingling with adults under detention, he was detained in a special separate room at a police station. The boy’s father hired a lawyer, Putu Angga Pratama Sukma, who is reportedly trying to mediate the case with the Duty-Free Shop to avoid charges being filed that would bring the boy to trial. The lawyer said the boy was crying at the police station and begging for forgiveness. Whenever possible, Indonesian law urges mediated solutions for cases involving under-aged children, but this can only happen if the shop that suffered the loss is prepared to withdraw criminal charges against the boy. [ August 13, 2018]