Universitas Indonesia Conferences, The 8th International Symposium of Journal Antropologi Indonesia

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Disastrous Environment-Making: Lapindo Mudflow Disaster, Disaster Mega Projects and Corporation-State-Science as Nexus of Geological Forces
Fathun Karib Satrio

Last modified: 2022-06-03


In 2006 Lapindo Brantas Inc. had conducted a successful operation in the Wunut gas field, Porong Subdistrict, Sidoarjo, for ten years. It expanded its gas wells to Renokenongo village in Porong, East Java, Indonesia. On March 8, 2006, the drilling activity started in the Banjar Panji-1 (the BJP-1) gas field in Renokenongo. The drilling well operations in the BJP-1 went on for eighty days, and suddenly underground blowout occurred. On May 29, 2006, it triggered a mud spill. The gas field turned into a disaster that produced mudflow to the surface. The mud from the drilling well spread fast and became a tragedy for villagers living around the area. The state and capital faced the potential frontier disassembling from two different agents. The first agent was the force of nature in the form of the continuous mudflow production and movements from beneath the earth. The other was the resistance of villagers surrounding the natural gas production site and Sidoarjo's local population. The central questions are: (1) what is at stake concerning accumulation? (2) How do the state and capital reassemble the disastrous environment? Parenti recognizes the state as an environmental entity, ensuring capital's access to nature as the provider of raw material (2016, 167). The environmental-making state for Parenti has geopower a "statecraft and technologies of power that make territory and the biosphere accessible, legible, knowable, and utilizable" (2016, 171). The first part of this article will examine how the Mudflow Disaster challenged the establishment of the Indonesian gas assemblage and generated an accumulation crisis for state and capital. The second part will focus on how the disastrous environment-making generated by capital activities intertwined with extra-human nature and co-produced the mudflow. The mudflow resulted from corporate drilling activities and the movement of the earth within the local Porong geological formation. The third part will explore corporate-state-science relations in maintaining, preventing and managing the disassembling Porong gas frontier. The state, capital and science reassemble the disastrous environment by developing disaster mega-projects through environment-making activities such as mud embankments, mudflow drainage, and relocating the toll roads. Disaster mega-projects are projects developed by the state, and the corporation is part of disaster management solutions. Disaster mega-projects can also be a way to fix and overcome the failure of the previous mega-project development or the destructive effect that occurs in the operation of an existing mega project. Finally, it will conclude by engaging with Anthropocene (Crutzen and Stoermer 2000; Crutzen 2002) discourse suggests that the case study of the Lapindo Mudflow exemplifies that not all humans are responsible for the destruction of the earth. It will set the Capitalocene (Moore 2015, 2016, 2017a, 2017b; Parenti 2016) argument that the corporation-state-science is the nexus of geological forces compared to other humans, i.e., the affected villagers.



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