Dian Maharani

Fighting for future generations

Dian Maharani was just a teenager when she took on one of the most powerful companies in Indonesia. Following in her mother’s footsteps, she is determined to keep going until she and her fellow villagers are heard.

‘Everything changed when I was six years old,’ Dian Maharani says at the start of the documentary Grit. ‘There was a tsunami of mud. We ran for our lives.’

In May 2006, the town of Sidoarjo (East Java) was hit by disaster. A drill of the Lapindo oil and gas company hit an underground pocket of hot mud. This resulted in a mud volcano, which at its peak spewed up to 180.000 m3 of mud per day. It has been erupting non-stop since then and is expected to continue until at least 2030. Twenty people lost their lives and nearly 40.000 were displaced. The mud has covered sixteen villages. Where there once was a lush green landscape, there now is a black desert of dried up mud.

For years, Lapindo refused to take responsibility for the disaster. One of the most prolific activists fighting for compensation for the villagers was Dian’s mother Harwati. Dian herself, just a teenager at the time, joined the struggle, which is the subject of Grit, shown at the Movies that Matter Festival 2019 where Dian Maharani is a special guest. ‘I hope that through the film, the world will learn about what really happened in Sidoarjo,’ Dian says. ‘It’s the story of a powerful company that was not held responsible for the devastating results of its negligence.’

The victims recently received health care cards from the government. ‘This is a step forward,’ says Dian, ‘but there still hasn’t been any progress regarding the environmental devastation, education and the economy.’ Dian, who is presently studying human rights law, says she will continue to fight: ‘We are fighting for future generations, for the full recovery of our society.’