Indonesian PM, 6 Bigwigs Found 'Negligent' on Air Pollution

Court orders Joko Widodo, 6 other top officials to improve air quality in Jakarta
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 16, 2021 8:09 AM CDT
Court: Indonesian President Was Lax on Clean Air
Judges read their verdict on a civil lawsuit filed against several Indonesian officials, including President Joko Widodo, for their failure to improve poor air quality in the capital city at Central Jakarta District Court in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

An Indonesian court ruled Thursday that President Joko Widodo and six other top officials have neglected citizens' rights to clean air and ordered them to improve the poor air quality in the current capital of Jakarta. A three-judge panel at the Central Jakarta District Court notched a victory for a healthy living environment, siding with 32 residents who filed a lawsuit two years ago against Widodo and the ministers for environment, health, and home affairs, as well as the provincial governors of Jakarta, Banten, and West Java, per the AP. In a verdict initially scheduled for May 20 that had been postponed several times, the judges voted 3-0 in favor of the plaintiffs under the Coalition for the Clean Air Initiative.

  • From the court: Presiding Judge Saifuddin Zuhri ordered the seven officials to tighten national air quality standards so they are "sufficient to protect human health, the environment, and ecosystems, including the health of sensitive populations, based on science and technology." "They have been negligent in fulfilling the rights of citizens to a good and healthy environment," said Duta Baskara, a member of the panel. The judges dismissed a part of the lawsuit alleging Widodo violated human rights.
  • Dirty air: Air pollution is a major problem in Indonesia, causing hundreds of thousands of premature deaths annually, per documents submitted in support of the suit. The severe air pollution in Jakarta stems mostly from vehicle emission, factories, and coal-fired power plants located in the neighboring provinces of Banten and West Java, per the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air in its 2020 report. It identified 136 industrial facilities, including power plants, as contributing to pollution.
  • Dirty water: Prone to flooding and rapidly sinking due to uncontrolled groundwater extraction, Jakarta has been creaking under the weight of its dysfunction, causing massive pollution to rivers and contaminating the groundwater that supplies the city.
  • What the complainants want: The plaintiffs, who included activists, public figures, motorists, and pollution disease victims, didn't ask for financial compensation and instead demanded a more robust supervision and sanctions for offenders. "We hope the defendants would accept their defeat wisely and choose to focus on making efforts to improve air quality conditions rather than doing useless things, such as legal efforts to fight in appeals,'' said one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs.
  • Government reaction: It's unclear if the government will appeal. A presidential spokesperson says the president and his Cabinet were studying the verdict and that the Ministry of Forestry and Environment would respond later.
(More Indonesia stories.)

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