A Jakarta court yesterday ruled that the Indonesian government is doing far too little to ensure that metropolitan residents can breathe clean air. The Indonesian president and six other influential government officials must improve the poor air quality in the capital, the court said in what is called a “landmark decision”.
Two years ago, 32 residents filed a complaint about poor air quality in Jakarta, which consistently features on the list of “most polluted” cities in the world. The court ruled that the president, three of his ministers, the governor of Jakarta and two provincial leaders did not take enough action against air pollution in the capital and thus violated Indonesian environmental law.
Residents’ lawyer Alghiffari Aqsa calls decision “historic”, writes CNN. “We hope that the defendants will accept this verdict and start working on it, because they also live here.”
According to locals, they suffer from health problems caused by Jakarta’s “dirty air”, such as asthma, skin problems and respiratory infections. “We don’t all have the same reactions, but it all comes down to the dirty air we breathe,” said a resident of Simanjuntak. Indonesia is the most polluted country in Southeast Asia.
Traffic jams and coal-fired power stations
Air pollution is often measured by examining the concentration of PM2.5 – these are microscopic particles that contain substances such as sulfate, nitrate, and carbon black. They can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause long-term harmful health problems such as lung cancer and various cardiovascular diseases. WHO uses 10 micrograms per cubic meter as a safe limit. The Indonesian government calls 15 micrograms per cubic meter “safe.” In Jakarta, the average value is 39.6 micrograms per cubic meter, well above the two safe values. The cause is rapid urbanization and the large amount of traffic jams, as do the coal-fired power plants just outside the city, studies show.
Doctor says we should try to minimize my grandson’s contact with the outside world
Resident Yuyun, who also initiated the lawsuit, is concerned about her grandson’s future. The 2-year-old boy developed eczema after playing on the balcony of his apartment on the 15th floor of a building in central Jakarta. “The doctor says we should try to minimize my grandson’s contact with the outside world,” she says. “Is that ridiculous, because the sun would do him good, but he can’t come out because of the sky?”
The Indonesian government is appealing the court ruling. According to a spokesperson, the government is not guilty of negligence, as it has been trying to improve air quality since 2011.
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