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Activists criticise the lack of progress in Jakarta air pollution lawsuit one year on

Straits Times - July 7, 2020

Jakarta – Activists have criticised the lack of progress of a historic Jakarta air pollution lawsuit, which remains unresolved a year after it was first filed on July 4, 2019.

The lawsuit, directed at seven state officials including Indonesian President Joko Widodo, initially received a positive response from the Jakarta administration.

However, no decision has been made even after numerous meetings were held both inside and outside the courtroom.

The activists, grouped under the Coalition for the Clean Air Initiative, urged the government officials to show "a serious attitude" in guaranteeing the right to healthy living.

One of the plaintiffs, Khalisah argued that the government's method of tackling air pollution was outdated.

"The provisions in the PP (Government Regulation) are far below the quality standards set by the World Health Organisation. The government should not ignore WHO recommendations, especially during the current pandemic," Ms Khalisah said in a statement on Monday.

Another plaintiff, urban analyst Elisa Sutanudjaja, said the government could have taken advantage of the "new normal" introduced as a response to the Covid-19 outbreak to reduce air pollution levels.

"[The government should] prioritise non-motorised transportation, as well as public transportation, instead of motorised vehicles," Ms Elisa said.

Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) advocacy team member Ms Ayu Eza Tiara pointed out numerous reports which predicted that by 2030, air pollution levels in the city could increase up to 30-fold, damaging residents' physical and psychological health, as well as the economy.

Tired of breathing in some of the world's most polluted air, a group of more than 30 activists and environmentalists in Jakarta decided to sue the Indonesian government on July 4 last year.

Beside the President, the lawsuit also named the Ministries of Health, Home Affairs and Environment, and the Governors of Jakarta, Banten and West Java as defendants.

The hearing was first scheduled to take place in May, but it was postponed until June 9 due to the Idul Fitri holiday.

Then, the judges postponed it again "without any strong reason", the group said in a statement in June.

The Indonesian capital often topped of the charts for the world's most polluted city in recent years. The pollution stems mostly from vehicle emissions, factories and coal-fired power plants.

It hit a new low in 2019, when the city was named the fifth-most-polluted capital in the world, according to a report by AirVisual.

Though there has been slight improvement in air quality when the city imposed a lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus recently, experts warned that in the absence of policies to redesign the way things work in the city, such improvement would only be temporary.

– The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

Source: http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/activists-criticise-the-lack-of-progress-in-jakarta-air-pollution-lawsuit-one-year-on