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Cement factory in Kendeng Karst Mountains, Indonesia


The Kendeng  Karst region is characterized by underground caves and springs. It is the main water source for farming communities living in the surrounding area. For decades, the people of Kendeng Karst have tried to live a life separate from modern Indonesia. They didn't have government identification until the early 2000s, and even then they fought to keep the religion line blank if the central government wouldn't recognize their faith [9]A study from the Centre for Disaster Management at private university UPN by Veteran Yogyakarta found underground water sources in the area proposed for a new cement factory by Semen Indonesia. On July 16, 2014, the local population was alerted of the construction of the cement factory plant in Rembang, Central Java just before an event placing the plant´s first stone. Women quickly mobilized as protest leaders in response, gathering community membres at the factory site to demonstrate. However, the army and police forcibly dispersed the action. During the scuffle, Police arrested four protestors and knocked two women unconscious from dragging and throwing them about [13].

Women have since been at the frontlines leading a grassroots campaign to save the mountains. They argue that the plant´s activities would destroy the region's natural karst caves and its water reservoir. Sukinah, one of the female leaders of the campaign, said: "As a mother I give birth to children, but Mother Earth brings to life vegetation, rice and everything else that we eat. We need to take care of Mother Earth by sticking to a sustainable lifestyle ... We won't be able to freely farm, because the mines will ruin our water source, the factory will pollute our village" [1].  The media have dubbed the women "the Kartinis of Rembang" after Indonesia's first feminist, Raden Adjeng Kartini [8], who was also born in Rembang.  It is no accident that the protesters are all females. As this woman leader said, "The reason us women fight in the front is not because the men were afraid," Sukinah says. "But we are more compassionate, we fight with love. If the men stayed in the front it might turn physical and we don't want casualties. Men are more emotional, they will turn physical when provoked" [3]. Many of the women are from the Samin community. Saminism, or Sedulur Sikep, is an Indonesian pacifist social movement founded by Surontiko Samin in Central Java in the late 19th century. Saminism rejected the capitalist views of the colonial Dutch, who forced taxes upon the people of Indonesia, including the poor and and monopolized the use of forest lands for trade.  Samins refused to pay taxes and freely cut wood from the teak forests after informing the village head (forest commons management) [5,6,7].

In April 2016, nine middle-aged women cast their legs in concrete during a 36-hour protest aginst the cement plant outside the presidential palace in Jakarta [4].  In October 2016, 300 farmers did a long march to pressure the goverment to revoke the Supreme Court decision renewing Semen Indonesia´s permits. However, the governor instead issued a new permit. In response, from December 18 to December 23, 2016, women and farmers alike set up a tent occupation in front of the Central Java Governor's office in Semarang before police demolished their campsite. As Semen Indonesia commented, "an independent environmental impact assessment gave the factory a pass". "Anyone is welcome to visit the factory and access its records of pollution levels" (corporate secretary, Agung Wiharto).  The pro factory campaign says "the factory has given them benefits, like employment for 1,200 construction laborers". The protest lost their case in both the district and high courts, so they brought the case to the Supreme Court [11]. In January 2017, Central Java Governor canceled the cement factory permits. The Supreme Court ruled the state-owned cement company began construction of its controversial plant without first conducting a thorough check of any potential impacts on the local environment [4].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Cement factory in Kendeng Karst Mountains, Indonesia
State or province:Rembang, Central Java
Location of conflict:Tegaldowo and Timbrangan villages (Kendeng karst mountains)
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific commodities:Cement

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The cement factory will have a capacity of 8000 tons per day

Semen Indonesia is Indonesia’s largest cement producer with a total annual output of approximately 30 million tonns per annum [2].

Semen Indonesia company also have announced its plan to invest US$200 million worth cement plant in Myanmar that will be built early in 2014 as part of its expansion into the Southeast Asian market[10].

Project area:850
Level of Investment for the conflictive project327,000,000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:16/07/2016
Company names or state enterprises:Semen Indonesia from Indonesia
Relevant government actors:Central Java Governor
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Samin community
Jaringan Masyarakat peduli Pegunungan Kendeng (JMPPK)
Semarang Caver Association [farming and local community groups in Rembang City]

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Women protest called "the Kartinis of Rembang"; Samin community; Jaringan Masyarakat Peduli Pegunungan Kendeng movement
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Women cement their feet, local people prayer and reciting the Koran


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Noise pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Air pollution
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood
Other socio-economic impactsCommunitarian division


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain: In January 2017, Central Java Governor canceled the cement factory permits. Before, the Supreme Court ruled the state-owned cement company began construction of its controversial plant without first conducting a thorough check of any potential impacts on the local environment [4]. Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo said: "Several [important] items were not included in the documents, especially on the procedures and regulations on the limitation of limestone mining activities in the area’s ground water basin" However, added that the permit could be reinstalled once Semen Indonesia fulfilled the requirements demanded.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[5] Korver, A. Pieter E. (1976). "The Samin Movement and Millenarism". Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde: 249–266

[6] King, Victor T. (1973). "Some Observations on the Samin Movement of North-Central Java: Suggestions for the Theoretical Analysis of the Dynamics of Rural Unrest". Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde: 457–481.

[7] Benda, Harry; Lance Castles (1969). "The Samin Movement". Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde: 207–216, 218–240

[8] Raden Adjeng Kartini Biography: Women's Rights Activist, Journalist (1879–1904)

[9] Renaldi (2017) Does This Look Like A Barren Wasteland?

[1] Kendeng Women Rise Up to Resist Cement Factory, Save Mother Earth

[2] PT Semen Indonesia’s Rembang plant is on track

[3] Women of Rembang put their feet down to save farms from cement factory

[4] Central Java Governor Revokes PT Semen Indonesia's Mining Permit in Rembang

[10] Semen Indonesia to build US$200m plant in Myanmar$200m-plant-in-myanmar

[11] Semen Indonesia Rembang Plant to Be Fully Operational in 2016

[12] Protest against Semen Indonesia’s Rembang factory continues

Semen Indonesia

Protest against Semen Indonesia’s Rembang factory continues

Kendeng farmers disappointed with new cement factory permit

The Kartinis of Kendeng: using motherhood as a form of resistance

Chronology of Resistance in Rembang City, Jawa Tengah: Street and community conflict against military & police in struggle against the construction of a cement factory (Indonesia)

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Women cement their feet protesting new factory construction in Indonesia

325 community. Chronology of Resistance in Rembang City, Jawa Tengah: Street and community conflict against military & police in struggle against the construction of a cement factory (Indonesia)

Meta information

Contributor:SM (ICTA-UAB)
Last update28/03/2017
Conflict ID:2560



Source: by Natalie Stuart 15th Nov. 2016


Source: The Jakarta Post/Seto Wardhana

One of nine female farmers of Mount Kendeng, Rembang regency, Central Java, is preparing to protest against cement plant development in the area by cementing her feet in front of the State Palace in Jakarta on April 13. The female farmers demanded to meet with the President to voice their concerns over the construction that would harm the environment and threaten their livelihoods as farmers