Indonesia virtual event, human experience, and solid conclusions

After a year of lockdown, you would think we would all have the hang of online meetings. Ha! There is always something that goes off-plan at the last minute. Fortunately, short delays in the introductions to our honorary speakers were the worst we had to deal with. Which isn’t bad considering some of us were working at 6am (local time, UK), and others at 2am (USA), to ensure that the event was live at a convenient time for our target Indonesian audience. More than 190 delegates registered in advance from over 20 countries, including Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Russia, Czechia, South Africa, and Brazil.

Our 3-day event was opened by distinguished speakers from our Indonesian partners – Dr Wanhar from the Ministry of the Environment and Mineral Resources (MEMR), and Dr Muhaddar from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MOEF), along with coordination by our in-country partner, the Basel and Rotterdam Convention Regional Centre (BCRC-Asia). Their attendance and contributions confirmed the strength of the project network and reflected the commitment of the Indonesian government to the success of this US State Department funded project.

The event was organised to share results of Phase 1 of our State Department Project work to reduce mercury emissions from the coal sector in Indonesia. Our website already holds details of the project including the desk report from Phase 1  and a webinar on the aims of the work. This online event was our only opportunity, under COVID-19 travel restrictions, to engage with our Indonesian stakeholders in a “face-to-face” setting. It is one thing for us to sit behind our computers and propose cost-effective mercury reduction strategies – but it is another thing entirely for these strategies to be confirmed as appropriate and applicable in the real world of the rapidly growing coal sector in Indonesia. This event allowed the project team, who had crunched data and models to evaluate the problem, to interact with those who will use that analysis to inform effective emission reduction policy. And over an hour of open discussion confirmed that we are all on the same page with respect to moving into Phase 2 of this exciting project.

Having evaluated emissions from the coal sector in Indonesia, on a unit by unit basis, we now have 3 named plants – Suralaya Unit 6, Paiton 1 Unit 2, and Ombilin Unit 1 – confirmed as our focus for Phase 2 of this project. Our next step will be to collate operational information on these units to share with interested parties. We will then send out a call for proposals for mercury emission reduction projects and strategies. Ideally, this call will include the option to visit the 3 plants in Indonesia – those who wish to propose a mercury reduction strategy or technology would benefit from getting their “boots dirty” on site.

Once we have a date for this (hopefully early 2022) we will send out an official call for interest. We very much look forward to receiving input from our growing network of contacts, including our Knowledge Partners, to create a full menu of mercury reduction strategies which will inform Indonesia’s National Action Plan for compliance with the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

The event is now available on our website, all presentations are available to download and I am happy to answer any further questions from those who may be interested in contributing to this exciting work –