Bengkulu’s black coal beaches
Not your ordinary fisherman,
Text and Photography by Loreen Neville
· Beginning at the northern route of the coastline from Bencoolen Street towards the southern coast, along most part of the seafront you can find people in small boats, people wading in the seawaters on the shore, using nets to try and scoop up loose coal debris. They make a living out of clearing up coal waste and somehow aid in trying to clean up the mess caused by the preparation plants. Nonetheless, the damage to the water and sea front is so immense that even though these people collect coal waste each day, there are always much more to collect the next day. Coal dust saturated in the seawater and sands are never cleaned up and as the years unfold, turn the sea water to be no longer blue but dark blackish in color.
A little further down Bencoolen Street, one is able to see sacks of collected coal ready to be sold directly or carried off by mini trucks to the markets. On this section, coals collected from the sea are by persons owning small fishing boats. Per sack is sold from 15-20 thousand rupiahs. Rows of this activity stretches along the coast of about 500 meters or more. Can you imagine the amount of coal waste collected each day? Can you imagine how polluted the waters are? There is no fish fishing or people swimming to enjoy nature at this point. Apart from that I unfortunately saw from afar a native removing his bowels on the edge of the seafront covered by shrubs. I gave a loud yell and he fled. The idiot! This area consisting of numerous small wooden boats for coal fishing is between Pantai Zakat and Pantai Pasar Bengkulu.
As you drive down the coast, another group of industrial coal pickers can be found. They are the net coal pickers. They do not own small boats. They too have set up settlements where they eat and sleep along this section of the long beach.
In this picture the black coal saturated in the sand is obvious. This is from coal dust washed down from the sea from the rivers that are coal dumping waste sites.
This area is very close or next to Cempaka Beach
While on the sea front are coals picking activities, on the other side facing the roads are huts where vendors sells fresh coconut juice and barbequed sea food. It is not as cheap as it sounds because sea food is not really in abundance along the coast.
Now along that strip of road are cottages, restaurant and entertainment that leads up to the other section of the beaches claimed as ‘white sand beaches’. In reality the sands are no longer white nor brown but grayish or besmirched.
This area is Kelurahan Malabro baru (kampong Layan) or pasar pantai. Here there are fishermen with small boats catching seafood. Seafood is not really that cheap in Bengkulu city when compared to prices in the Jakarta Muara Angke’s fishing port. The reason is because aquatic life is not in abundance because there are toxin wastes in the waters.
Coal picking activities are found at Muara Pasar Bengkulu, Pantai Zakat, Pantai Pasar Bengkul, Pantai Pondok Kelapa, Pantai Sungei Suci, and some parts of Pantai Panjang (Nala beach) which is also next to Gading Cempaka beach is where Hotel Horizon, Raffles City Hotel, rows of restaurants, discos, Cottage hotels, elephants and donkey rides.