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Court rules in favour of Jakarta residents for unhealthy air quality lawsuit against the government

In a landmark ruling, a district court ordered President Joko Widodo to tighten national air quality standards.

Court rules in favour of Jakarta residents for unhealthy air quality lawsuit against the government

A general view of business buildings as smog covers the capital city of Jakarta, Indonesia, May 19, 2021. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

JAKARTA: The Central Jakarta district court on Thursday (Sep 16) ordered President Joko Widodo and his administration to tighten regulations and impose greater supervision and enforcement regarding poor air quality in the capital city.

In a landmark ruling, the court found that the president, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Home Affairs as well as the governors of Jakarta and its two neighbouring provinces, Banten and West Java had violated the law by allowing Jakarta’s air quality to deteriorate.

Judge Saifudin Zuhri, who is among those who presided over the case, said in the verdict that the defendants had “committed unlawful acts”. 

All seven are defendants in a lawsuit lodged by a number of Jakarta citizens who demanded that the government at both the national and city level tighten regulations on air quality standards, which they see as too lenient. They are also pushing for better supervision and sanctions for offenders. 

The court ordered the president, popularly known as Jokowi, to “tighten the national air quality standards so that they are sufficient to protect people’s health, the environment and the ecosystem, including the health of sensitive groups within the population, in line with scientific and technological developments”.

Meanwhile, the three ministers were told to formulate an action plan to improve Jakarta’s air quality as well as impose tighter supervision on the governors of Jakarta, Banten and West Java regarding their efforts to curb the pollution.

“The air quality in Jakarta had exceeded the acceptable standards, posing a risk to the plaintiffs’ health which could even lead to their early deaths. The defendants had been aware of this fact for many years but had not taken significant steps to ensure that the standards were met,” Duta Baskara, another judge, said in the ruling. 

“The city of Jakarta had never made the effort to inform the public which areas are exposed to air pollution, the risk it poses to public health as well as monitor how people’s health had degraded.” 

As for Jakarta’s neighbouring provinces, Judge Baskara said they had not imposed tight monitoring nor strict sanctions against industries and individuals contributing to the city’s worsening air pollution.
 

Mdm Ayu Eza Tiara, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, told CNA: “We really appreciate the ruling that the judges had handed. We had presented an abundant amount of evidence, witness testimonies and expert opinions and we are happy that the judges accepted our arguments.” 

“We hope that the defendants can immediately act on this ruling because the problem of pollution in Jakarta has become so great that it needs to be addressed immediately.”

The defendants can still appeal the district court’s decision. 

The plaintiffs - which include activists, office workers and motorcycle taxi drivers – filed the lawsuit in 2019. The verdict was supposed to be handed down on May 20 but was postponed eight times for various reasons.

Jakarta regularly ranks among the cities with the worst air quality in the world, according to online air quality index monitor IQAir, with air quality readings recording high concentrations of harmful microscopic particles known as PM2.5. 

Environment groups blame the air pollution on a cocktail of vehicle fumes, smoke and emissions from coal-fired power plants that ring greater Jakarta.

A month before the lawsuit was lodged, Jakarta ranked as the world’s most polluted city according to IQAir, taking the top spot from notoriously polluted cities like New Delhi and Beijing.

The city’s air quality improved slightly during the pandemic, particularly when the authorities imposed a series of lockdowns to curb the spread of COVID-19 last year.

Source: CNA/tx

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