Body count rises to sixteen at controversial Batang Toru dam in Indonesia after tunnel collapses.

Sydney Jones

Press Secretary

[email protected]

Carole Mitchell

Sr. Director Communications

[email protected]

This latest tragedy during the construction of the Batang Toru hydroelectric dam, brings the number of workers and families killed, in less than two years, to sixteen. In the latest incident on Sunday (21st August 2022) a Chinese construction worker was crushed when part of a tunnel collapsed.  

Responding to this latest tragedy, Amanda Hurowitz, Mighty Earth’s Senior Program Director for Southeast Asia said:  

“Our thoughts are with the family and co-workers of the latest victim to lose his life in such tragic circumstances. But the question is: How many more lives are going to be lost, or workers injured, in the construction of this ill-conceived and unnecessary dam before the project is stopped in its tracks?”  

“The Batang Toru ecosystem is wholly unsuitable for this project. This dam is located in a highly sensitive area, home to the Tapanuli orangutan, the world’s most endangered Great Ape. Repeated landslides have killed fifteen individuals, and now a tunnel collapse has claimed yet another life. It seems like this project is just cursed, and it’s time for its backers to cut their losses.”  

“This project has recently been bought for $277mn by China’s State Development and Investment Corporation. The Chinese government involvement conflicts with China’s role as the host of the Convention on Biological Diversity later this year. The optics for China on this one are bad. It can’t claim to the world to be protecting biodiversity if it pushes ahead with this dam, threatening a whole species of orangutan with extinction. We hope that China will instead use its influence to protect Batang Toru and its iconic wildlife, as part of its many efforts to support an ecologically harmonious civilization. Changing the direction of this project  would show China is serious about realizing its commitments to Nature and climate.” 


  • This ill-conceived Chinese backed Indonesian dam project came to worldwide attention in 2017 when scientists identified a new species of great ape living in the forests of Batang Toru. The Tapanuli Orangutan, numbering only 800, is the most endangered species of ape in the world. The dam and associated infrastructure by bisecting their habitat threatens their very existence.[i] 
  • Analysis of predicted electricity demand in the region has shown that the electricity that would be produced by the dam may not even be needed. [ii] 
  • This project has become a risky bet for major financiers. Multilateral development banks such as the International Finance Corporation (IFC) have also pulled out of the project[iii], as have private investment banks like Goldman Sachs.[iv] The Asian Infrastructure Development Bank has declined to finance the project. And, the Bank of China has suspended its involvement.[v] 
  • The Tapanuli orangutan faces other threats associated with habitat loss, including land clearing associated with the Martabe gold mine, owned, and operated by companies linked with to Astra Agro Lestari and British conglomerate Jardines Matheson.[vi] 


  1. Dam that threatens orangutan habitat is ‘wholly unnecessary’: Report ( 
  1. Bank of China’s Notes on the Hydroelectric Dam Project in Batang Toru of Indonesia ( 
  1. Dam that threatens orangutan habitat faces three-year delay ( 
  1. Dam threatening world’s rarest great ape faces delays | Science | AAAS ( 
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