locals win clean air battle against Indonesian government – .

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locals win clean air battle against Indonesian government – .



The long-awaited decision ends a two-year lawsuit filed by 32 Jakarta citizens against Indonesian President Joko Widodo, three ministers, the governor of Jakarta and two provincial leaders. The court ruled that the defendants were guilty of “committing” illegal acts “and failing to combat air pollution in the nation’s capital.

They had violated the country’s environmental protection laws, according to the verdict, which called on senior officials to establish a national standard for ambient air quality, among a number of other measures.

Jakarta, home to over 10.5 million people, consistently ranks among the world’s worst cities for air pollution.

“We hope that all the defendants will accept this verdict, because they also live here,” Aqsa said. “We hope that they will respect this verdict by executing all points through their action and strategic planning. ”
The defendants’ attorney, who was not present in court Thursday, declined to comment on the verdict when contacted by CNN.

Prior to the ruling, Leonard Simanjuntak, country director of Greenpeace Indonesia and plaintiff in the lawsuit as a private citizen, said several plaintiffs had faced significant health problems while breathing “dirty air” in Jakarta.

He cited asthma, skin problems and the case of a complainant who developed an upper respiratory infection after moving to town.

Citizens claimed that the government had been negligent in meeting its obligations to deal with air pollution in Jakarta and failed to respect residents’ right to clean air.

“We don’t all have the same sensitivities, but there are those who suffer from health issues related to the dirty air we breathe,” Simanjuntak said.

Choke on the smog

Indonesia is the most polluted country in Southeast Asia and Jakarta is the 10th most polluted capital in the world, according to IQAir’s World Air Quality Report 2020.

Air pollution is often measured by the concentration of PM2.5 – microscopic particles that contain pollutants such as sulfate, nitrates, and carbon black. They are small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs and can cause serious health problems, including lung cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, and premature death.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines the standard for PM2.5 in ambient air quality safe at 10 micrograms per cubic meter. In Indonesia, the national safety standard set by the government is 15 micrograms per cubic meter.

But in Jakarta, readings consistently far exceed both levels – with an average annual PM2.5 concentration of 39.6 micrograms per cubic meter, according to the IQAir report.

Rapid urbanization and high levels of traffic congestion are the main contributors to poor air quality in Jakarta, according to a study by the Energy and Clean Air Research Center (CREA). Coal-fired power plants on the outskirts of the city also play a role, according to the study.

Citizens challenge the government

Yuyun Ismawati, co-founder of environmental group Nexus3 Foundation, said she joined the lawsuit after getting fed up with the city’s bad air.

“This citizen trial is for me to defend and defend the right to health for all, in particular for children and for their future,” she declared.

She said her two-year-old grandson developed symptoms of rash after sitting on the balcony of her family’s 15th-floor apartment in central Jakarta.

“The doctor said we should try to reduce my grandson’s exposure to outside air,” she added. “Is it ridiculous because the sun is supposed to be good for him, but he can’t be outside because of the air?” “

Ahead of the ruling, Yuyun and other activists said they hoped a judicial victory would pressure the government to enforce national air quality standards in Jakarta.

She also said they wanted local and national governments to enforce environmental safeguards, impose strict regulations on coal-fired power plants and be transparent about air pollution policies.

Simanjuntak, of Greenpeace, said it was almost impossible to avoid being affected by bad air when traveling on Jakarta’s roads. “Even a mask couldn’t really protect you,” he said.

Prior to the decision, he said he hoped the judgment would force the government to commit resources to make Jakarta’s air more breathable.

“What we are demanding is a comprehensive political reform in terms of the regulatory framework, higher ambient air quality standards to be adopted on the basis of WHO standards”, Simanjuntak noted.

In a written brief in support of the lawsuit, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Environment, David R. Boyd, said: “Air pollution is a major problem in Indonesia. , causing hundreds of thousands of premature deaths each year. He added that “the problems are particularly serious in Jakarta”.

“I respectfully submit that the failure of Indonesian governments to improve the quality of substandard outdoor air in Jakarta, especially when they have failed to act with the degree of urgency and diligence required in the face of prolonged exceedances and persistent air quality standards, is a violation of the constitutional right to a good and healthy environment, ”he wrote.

The efforts do not go far enough

When the complaint was filed in July 2019, the government denied that the city’s air quality had deteriorated and urged the media not to “dramatize” the situation.

Irvan Pulungan, the governor’s climate change envoy for Jakarta, said the government has tried to improve the city’s air quality for the past two years.

He said that after filing the complaint, the Jakarta regional government adopted many regulations, including installing solar panels in government buildings, testing vehicle emissions, improving public transport infrastructure. , the development of cycle paths and the encouragement of people to use public transport.

But the plaintiffs said those efforts do not go far enough. They said air pollution in Jakarta also came from outside the city’s borders – industrial plants and coal-fired power plants in neighboring provinces and satellite towns.

That is why they also sued the governors of the neighboring provinces of Banten and West Java, and Widodo.

Angry citizens sue Indonesian government over rising air pollution

But the response from provincial governors and the national government has been minimal and disappointing, the complainants said.

Ahead of the ruling, Yuyun said he hoped the activists’ legal victory would be more than symbolic and that the ruling would allow local and national governments to prioritize action on air pollution.

“I defend the ecological rights of the child for my grandson and all the children who will have to continue to face this bad air quality”, she declared. “As adults, we are responsible for their quality of life. “

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