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Verdict postponed for lawsuit against Indonesian government over unhealthy Jakarta air quality

Verdict postponed for lawsuit against Indonesian government over unhealthy Jakarta air quality

Indonesian artist Fivust makes finishing touches to a large clean air-themed mural in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, March 11, 2021. The mural is made as a part of a global public art campaign to raise awareness about air pollution. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

JAKARTA: An Indonesian court has postponed the issuance of a verdict regarding a lawsuit against the government over the alarming levels of air pollution that regularly blanket Jakarta.

The verdict was supposed to be handed down on Thursday (May 20) but the hearing was postponed to Jun 10. 

"Because there are many documents to cross-examine and we also have many other cases (to hear), we need time to study this case before we issue our ruling," judge Saifuddin Zuhri, who presided over the case and led a team of three of judges, told lawyers from both sides. 

The plaintiffs - which include activists, office workers and motorcycle taxi drivers - 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 defendants included President Joko Widodo, the environment and forestry ministry as well as the health ministry. The governor of Jakarta and its surrounding provinces of West Java and Banten were also among the defendants.

Mdm Ayu Eza Tiara, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, said she was disappointed by the postponement. 

"We are not demanding monetary compensation but our rights to clean air," she told CNA. 

"This case has been dragging on for two years and there is still a chance that we have to fight all the way to the Supreme Court. The longer it takes for the verdict to be issued, the longer we have to wait for a chance to enjoy clean air in Jakarta."

The lawsuit was filed in July 2019.

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. 

READ: Commentary - Jakarta’s air quality kills its residents, and it’s getting worse

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.

Jakarta’s air quality index (AQI) reached a “very unhealthy” level of more than 200 that year, peaking at an AQI of 240 on Jun 27, 2019, 60 points shy from being considered “hazardous.” 

Although still considered “unhealthy”, Jakarta’s air quality improved slightly during the pandemic, particularly when the city imposed a series of lockdowns to curb the spread of COVID-19 last year.

Source: CNA/ni

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