Hasrul, The Jakarta Post, Kendari
Daeng Embang stared in despair at his dying orchard when a team of government officials and environmental activists stopped by his house on their way to monitor activities at a quarrying site in the area.
The middle-aged man said that it had been almost a month since he had bothered to tend to his precious fruit trees.
""I have tried fertilizing them, but to no avail,"" said Embang, a resident at Rahandouna village, Kendari city, the capital of Southeast Sulawesi province.
He explained that the durian, rambutan and jackfruit trees on his 50-hectare orchard had dried up, lost their leaves and died after another villager started mining for sand and gravel on an adjacent plot of land.
The illegal quarrying has eaten away at the river banks, causing the width of the riverbed to expand by 10 meters and the river channel to be 10 meters deeper than it was previously.
The changes in the river channel and damage to adjacent areas have impacted the water table in the village and caused crops to dry up.
""Yes, the quarry site belongs to S., my neighbor. Quarrying activities have been going on for a year,"" said Embang, trying to look calm when Rahandouna village chief, Syamsukwan, asked about the mining near his house.
But Embang soon became furious when as the discussion of his neighbor continued. ""I have already submitted this matter to God and I hope I will not meet that person on the street,"" he said.
Embang knows S. well, and described him as a civil servant.
""He owns a large piece of land in this area, but he has not cultivated it, but rather has turned it into a rock quarry,"" he said. The village administration has not approved his activities.
""Frankly speaking, I just found out about the quarry here. I have never been informed of it by the landowner,"" said the village chief.
As required by regulations, quarrying must be authorized by the village administration.
During the field inspection at the site, the young village chief seemed startled when he saw that the road to the quarry had been damaged. He also observed that the trees and crops planted by villagers near the quarry were nearly lifeless and their roots were showing.
""This has gone too far. The owner of the quarry has not thought about the impact it has on other residents. I promise I will summon S. to my office,"" he said.
S. is known to own three quarrying locations, one of them in Tuonohu, near Embang's house on a local riverbank.
The Kendari mining authorities were not available for comment when asked whether a permit was given.
The Coastal and Inland People's Empowerment Council (Lepmil), a local non-governmental organization has alleged that illegal quarrying is widespread in a number of locations in the Nanga-Nanga forest preserve area near Embang's property.
At least 40 such locations in various places have been found, mostly located along river banks.
""The government should restrict all mining because it has caused serious damage to the environment,"" said Lepmil director, Agung Wiyono.