There are 32 plaintiffs in a citizen lawsuit against the Indonesian president, the ministers of health, environment and home affairs, and several regional leaders, demanding they fix the unhealthy air they breathe, and the Central Jakarta district court had been expected to rule on the 2019 lawsuit on Thursday 20th May, but this had been postponed because judges needed more time to consider their ruling.
Of the world’s cities with the worst air pollution last year, the top 148 are in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Swiss air quality technology company IQAir. The plaintiffs' legal team have claimed Indonesian authorities has been environmentally negligent by failing to prevent its citizens from the health impacts of air pollution. They argued that scientific research showed poor air quality can lead to asthma, coronary heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and decreased life expectancy.
Irvan Pulungan, the Jakarta governor's special envoy on climate change, said the city had passed new regulations since the suit was filed, including on installing solar panels in government buildings and encouraging emission tests. "The suit was a collaborative effort to encourage something that's not just pro-people, pro-environment, but also pro-social justice," he said, adding that to maximise the effectiveness of policies regional and central governments needed to integrate actions.
In 2019, Jakarta also announced new curbs on private car usage to try and rein in choking air pollution. But so far we have seen very little change in the pollution levels since the number of government buildings with solar panels is very small compared to the whole, and the “curbs” on private car use have proved ineffective since the public transportation system has not been improved and enhanced enough for people to be able to leave their cars and motorcycles at home.
Rapid urbanisation and chronic traffic are contributing factors to poor air quality in the Indonesian capital, alongside nearby coal-fired power plants, according to the Center on Energy and Clean Air (CREA). Air quality monitoring of fine particle matter (PM 2.5) by the U.S. embassy in Jakarta in 2019 showed there were 172 unhealthy days, more than 50% of the year.
Despite social restrictions, Jakarta’s air quality has not significantly improved during the COVID-19 pandemic, with satellite imaging showing power plants in neighbouring provinces operating as usual, noted CREA in an August 2020 report, which analysed transboundary air pollution in Jakarta and its surrounding areas.
CREA identified 136 registered industrial facilities, including power plants, in high-emitting sectors in Jakarta and within a 100-kms (62-mile) radius of the city borders. Coal-fired power plants, it said, expose people to toxic particles, some microscopic, such as PM2.5, ozone, from nitrogen oxides and heavy metals like mercury.
Let us pray the court reaches a decision which will increase the speed of change so that citizens will be able to breathe non-toxic air much sooner.