Jakarta (ANTARA) - Walhi (Indonesian environmental forum) has urged the government to stop mining activities around Sawahlunto town, West Sumatra Province, following the inscription of Ombilin, former coal mining area in Sawahlunto, in the list of Unesco's World Heritage.

"Yes, in Sawahlunto, there are still active mining permits and illegal mining activities continue," Uni Chaus, director executive of Walhi's West Sumatra office, said here, on Sunday.

If the government wants to develop Ombilin tourism, all mining activities must be totally stopped, because those activities could damage the environment, trigger land claim conflicts, and harm Sawahlunto's image as a safe and nice tourist destination, she said.

According to Walhi data, there are 13 mining permit holders still actively operating in Ombilin.

"Being a World Heritage site, Sawahlunto must improve its environment, by banning all illegal gold mining activities today being carried out massively in rivers and areas which are in fact the main gates into Sawahlunto," she stated.

The environmental NGO also called for closure of a steam power plant located in Sijantang, Talawi sub-distrit, Sawahlunto for producing fly ash and bottom ash that polluting the environment.

The pollution contributes emission that could worsen the climate change impacts, and this could be contrary to the outstanding universal value that should be reflected by World Heritage site, she remarked.

The Ombilin coal mining site, built during the colonial ruler in Sawahlunto, West Sumatra Province, has been declared as a world cultural heritage, by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The world body declared the coal mining site as a world heritage during the 43rd session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee held at the Baku Congress Center in Azerbaijan on Saturday afternoon, according to Director of Cultural Heritage and Diplomacy of the Education and Culture Ministry Nadjamuddin Ramly on Saturday.

Sawahlunto City was nominated for the provisional list of world cultural heritage sites in 2015. Since then, lengthy discussions have been intensively conducted with domestic and foreign experts and academics under the efforts to collect data and draft supporting documents.

The process has led to a proposal to expand the nomination theme to strengthen outstanding universal value.

The expansion of the nomination theme has had an impact on the expansion of nomination areas by combining several cities and districts including the Padang, Padang Panjang, and Solok municipalities and Solok, Padang Pariaman, and Tanah Datar districts in West Sumatra into one nomination territory called "Ombilin Coal Mining Heritage of Sawahlunto."

Translator: Virna P Setyorini, Fardah
Editor: Bambang Purwanto
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