Air Clean Up

  • Jakarta Residents to Sue Indonesian Government Over Pollution

Jakarta Residents to Sue Indonesian Government Over Pollution

Jul 07 2019 Read 987 Times

A group of Indonesian citizens have become so frustrated at the government’s inaction over the worsening air quality crisis in the national capital that they are suing the country’s top politicians. Alongside President Joko Widodo, the consortium is also levelling charges against the Ministries of Environment, Health and Home Affairs, as well as the governors of Jakarta, Banten and West Java.

To date, over 30 concerned businessmen, civil servants and environmentalists have joined the list of plaintiffs, whose case is being handled by the Jakarta Legal Institute. They hope that legal action may spur an otherwise lethargic government into addressing what is a serious issue for many Indonesians, given that air quality in the capital has deteriorated significantly over recent years.

A worrying trend

With the technological advances in air quality monitoring networks, environmentalists in Indonesia have been able to gain a more comprehensive overview of how air pollution has increased in just the last two years. In June 2017, the US embassy’s Air Quality Index (AQI) gave Jakarta an average pollution rating of 74. In the same month this year, it was exactly double that figure at 148.

Indeed, Jakarta fares even worse according to other air quality standards. IQAir Visual said that the concentration of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) in the city rose by 50% between 2018 and 2019, reaching a high of 189 on June 14th. That was the worst pollution rating of any city in the world on that particular day and it wasn’t a one-off, either; Jakarta has topped the charts for contamination at least six times in June alone.

Fudging the facts

In response, the Indonesian government have played down concerns, claiming that it’s normal for pollution to intensify during the dry season and that the IQAir Visual rankings aren’t valid anyway due to the type of monitoring equipment they use. The Environment and Forestry Ministry has its own mechanism, called the Air Quality Monitoring System (AQMS), which shows considerably more favourable readings than either AQI or IQAir Visual.

If AQMS’s results are to be believed, average pollution concentrations have actually decreased from June last year. In June 2018 the average readout was 34mg/m3, while this year it’s just 30mg/m3. That makes it lower than many other cities in the world, including Beijing. “Don’t dramatize the situation,” urged Dasrul Chaniago, director of air pollution control for the Ministry.

Forcing the issue

However, the people of Jakarta are refusing to be cowed by his words. The court case was originally broached in December 2018 but lawyers held off prosecution to give the government time to act, but its subsequent sluggishness has forced their hand. Now over 30 academics, activists, artists, businessmen, civil servants and concerned citizens intend to take those responsible to task.

The situation is somewhat reminiscent of similar litigation that has unfolded closer to home. The UK government has been taken to court several times over its inability or unwillingness to address air quality issues in the nation’s capital and beyond. On each occasion, the prosecuting environmental law firm, ClientEarth, have won their case, but major reforms of air pollution policy are still not forthcoming.

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