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YPTB: Timo Sea largely destroyed after 2009 Montara oil spill KUPANG - Recent undersea pictures and video have shown that conditions in Indonesia's Timor Sea have deteriorated at an alarming rate, largely caused by the 2009 Montara oil spill, the Care West Timor Foundation (YPTB) said.

Most of the damage is believed to have been caused by the chemical Corexit 9500 or dispersant sprayed in the region by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) in its effort to submerge the oil spill to the seabed in the Timor Sea.

YPTB chief Ferdi Tanoni told the Antara news agency that concerning damage is seen in the footage as coral reefs where fish grow have been destroyed. The undersea pictures and videos were made by experts from Australia and the Surabaya Institute of Technology (ITS) earlier this month.

Tanoni said around 64,000 hectares (158,000 acre) of coral reefs in the Sawu Sea had been destroyed by both the oil spill and chemical substances used to submerge the oil. In addition, coastal people in East Nusa Tenggara have reported suffering from 'strange diseases.'

On August 21, 2009, an oil field off the northern coast of Western Australia and in Indonesia's Timor Sea experienced a blowout at a wellhead platform, causing a large oil and gas leak which is considered one of Australia's worst oil disasters. The rig, owned by the Norwegian-Bermudan Seadrill and operated by PTTEP Australasia (PTTEPAA), continued to leak for 74 days until it was capped on November 3, 2009.

According to the Australian Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, the Montara oil spill was leaking as much as 2,000 barrels a day. Reports indicate a total of 40 million liters (over 10.5 million gallons) of crude oil was spilled into Australian waters, which reached Indonesia's seas through natural currents.

Over 70,000 square kilometers (43,500 square miles) of sea in Indonesia's East Nusa Tenggara province were eventually polluted. The Australian government later informed that an inquiry revealed that PTTEPAA's failure to carry out standard operating procedures caused the oil spill.

Tanoni explained that the undersea images are important material for a study on the socio-economic, health and environmental impact of the incident so far. The YPTB chief also emphasized that there was no reason for PTTEPAA, the federal government of Australia and the Northern Australia government to not conduct a thorough, comprehensive, credible and independent scientific study on the impact of the incident on local people.

"We need an appropriate, overall, transparent, credible and independent scientific study financed by PTTEP Australasia and the government of Australia as a form of their responsibility for the incident that has caused the people of West Timor in East Nusa Tenggara fall victim," Tanoni said as quoted by the media outlet.

According to Tanoni, PTTEPAA previously stated that the oil spills in Timor Sea were small and do not affect the local people environmentally, socially and economically. However, he insisted the damage was evident, calling for a thorough study that would also show the cost of he damage from the spill.

Last September, Indonesian Environment Minister Mohammad Gusti Hatta urged the Government of Australia to sign a compensation payment agreement related to the oil spill, which has already been postponed on two occasions.

Mohammad said Australia had rejected the compensation payment agreement because the figures were too high, while Indonesian officials argued the numbers were based on the direct losses suffered by local fishermen, the general economic losses, as well as the indirect losses from the damage done to coral reefs, mangroves and coastal ecosystems.

PTTEPAA has said it would makeup Indonesia's losses through its corporate social responsibility (CSR) program and, according to reports, through non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Mohammad underlined the big difference between CSR programs and recovering damages, describing PTTEPAA's proposal as unacceptable.


Tags: 2009, oil spill, Montana, Timo Sea, destruction


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