Activists Fiercely Reject President Jokowi's Sea Sand Exports Policy, Jakarta - The Indonesian government has legalized the exportation of sea sands after banning the practice 20 years ago. Environmentalists react strongly against the regulation, although the government insists sands exports will not harm the environment.

"Not at all. Now we have GPS (Global Positioning System) and stuff to ensure the works will not [harm the environment]", said Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Investment Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan in Jakarta, Tuesday (30/5/2023).

The powerful minister argues that the sea sand are extracted for the sake of "channel deepening".

"Otherwise, our sea will be more shallow, so it is good for the health of the sea," Luhut confided.

Greenwashing and Foul

But a sea expert, environmental activists, and a former minister fiercely disagree. Greenpeace said the government is trying to greenwash the situation for the sake of oligarchy.

"This is the greenwashing a la the government. The government is again playing with the narrative as if prioritizing the spirit of environmental recovery and sustainability, but in reality unrolling the red carpet for the interests of businesses and oligarchs," said Afdillah, Ocean Campaigner Greenpeace Indonesia, in his statement.

Director of the National Maritime Institute (Namarin) Siswanto Rusdi pointed out how the maritime environment in Riau Islands is still damaged after years of sands extraction for Singapore.

"President Jokowi said wanted to increase the value added to our mining yields. Downstreaming coals, downstreaming nickels, instead now sea sands are on sale. This is regression. Licking one's own spit," said Siswanto to

In the past, Indonesia exported its sea sand to Singapore. The negative effects still linger until now.

"This is a foul business: extracting sea sands. The sea in Riau Islands was extracted. For 20 years, until now, it still has not recovered," said Siswanto.

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Harming the Sea

Afdillah of Greenpeace Indonesia also warns that this new policy will "obviously destroy the sea ecosistemt" and "accelerates the sinking of small islands around the mining area". 

"The government is unable to administer the sea resources in smart ways, so they often take shortcuts to improve the country's revenue through extractive means like this," said Afdillah.

Regional Executive Director of Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI) in Riau Islands and Riau provinces, Jerry Even Sembiring, said this policy is showing how President Jokowi sides with big businesses. He strongly demands the new regulation to be cancelled.

Jerry pointed out that this policy will also harm fishermen in the area. But the Governor of Riau Islands Ansar Ahmad said that he expects this policy will give benefits to the fishermen.

The popular former minister for fisheries, Susi Pudjiastuti, reacted at this new regulation by tweeting sad emoji on her Twitter.

"Hopefully this decision is cancelled," said Susi on Twitter. "The environmental damages will be greater. Climate change has been felt and impactful. Do not worsen it with sea sand mining."

Indonesia outlawed the exports of sea sands in 2003. It was President Megawati Soekarnoputri who made that regulation. President Jokowi is an official within Megawati's party: the Indonesia Demoractic Party-Struggle (PDI-P). 

During the campaign, Jokowi was using the sea to gain supports, championing Indonesia's identity as a maritime country.


Tira Santia and Ajang Nurdin contributed to this report.


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