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Indonesian President Loses Lawsuit Ruling that the Government Neglected Pollution Issues in Jakarta


Smog blankets Jakarta’s skyscrapers in this file photo. (The Jakarta Post/ Wendra Ajistyatama)

Last Thursday, an Indonesian court found President Joko Widodo and six other top officials guilty of violating residents' right to clean air. The Central Jakarta District Court panel voted 3-0 in favor of a group of 32 residents who filed a lawsuit starting in July 2019 seeking a healthy living environment in the city against Widodo and his three Cabinet ministers of home affairs, health, and environment, as well as the governors of Jakarta, Banten, and West Java.

Presiding Judge Saifuddin Zuhri stated that the seven authorities must take substantial steps to preserve people's rights to health in Jakarta by strengthening air quality laws and using science and technology to protect human health, the environment, and ecosystems.

The plaintiffs, who include activists, public personalities, motorcycle taxi drivers, and those suffering from pollution-related illnesses, were not seeking monetary compensation, but rather more stringent oversight and penalties for polluters. However, a portion of the case alleging that Widodo had violated human rights was dismissed by the judges.

Jakarta is prone to flooding and fast sinking due to unchecked groundwater extraction. It has been groaning under the weight of its failure, generating significant pollution in waterways and polluting the city's groundwater supply.

Jakarta's governor's climate change adviser, Irvan Pulungan, said the governor was willing to work with the plaintiffs to fix the city's pollution problems and improve air quality.

According to the Center on Energy and Clean Air's 2020 study, the severe air pollution in Jakarta is primarily caused by car emissions, factories, and coal-fired power stations in the nearby provinces of Banten and West Java. According to research released by the Climate Action Tracker, an independent scientific organization, “Indonesia looks set to miss an opportunity to lock in deep emissions reductions as it recovers from the pandemic.”

It’s also starting to put a dent in the economy. According to reports from the Jakarta government, there were over 5.5 million cases of illnesses related to air pollution in the city costing the medical system 60.8 trillion rupiah in 2020.

President Joko Widodo's campaign on rebuilding infrastructure and improving the environment was the signature program that helped him win a second term in 2019, this promise has been undermined today during Thursday's ruling.


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