Citizens set to sue government for 'doing nothing' about Jakarta's air pollution

Environmental activists demand that the Jakarta administration and the central government do something about Jakarta's air pollution, on Dec 5. PHOTO: THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Dozens of bicyclists entered City Hall on Wednesday morning (Dec 5) to send a warning to the Jakarta administration and the central government that, if they do not do something about Jakarta's air pollution within 60 days, they will file a citizen lawsuit.

Three of them wore orange jumpsuits and respirator masks while yelling: "Clean the air of the capital city!"

The citizens, who are grouped under Gerakan Inisiatif Bersihkan Udara Koalisi Semesta (Coalition for the Clean Air Initiative), or Gerakan Ibu Kota for short, plan to sue the President, the Jakarta governor and other officials because they were seen as "doing nothing" to reduce the city's air pollution.

Nineteen citizens, including Inayah Wahid, Melanie Subono and Sandyawan Sumardi, are prepared to become plaintiffs should the government fail to deliver in 60 days.

Ms Inayah said she was worried about the level of air pollution in Jakarta.

"We are concerned about this. That's why we ask the government to be really serious about reducing the pollution to prevent (people from becoming) victims, especially those from the most vulnerable groups," she said.

Ms Melanie, a musician, said breathing clean air was a citizen's right.

The citizens demanded better governance and law enforcement to tackle air pollution problems stemming from factories, coal-fired power plants and vehicle emissions.

"We are notifying the related officials that, if they do not make any significant moves to reduce air pollution in Jakarta within 60 working days, we are going to take this case to the Central Jakarta District Court in the form of a citizen lawsuit," Mr Nelson Nikodemus Simamora, a member of the movement and advocate from the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute, told The Jakarta Post.

"We send the message not only to the Jakarta governor, but also to the governors of Banten and West Java, because factories and coal-fired power plants in those provinces have spread pollution to Jakarta as well."

According to a 2017 Greenpeace report titled Jakarta's Silent Killer, eight coal-fired power plants operate within 100km of Jakarta, producing hazardous pollutants that affect the capital city.

"This bad governance affects more than 10 million people living and working in Jakarta. We can obtain cheap energy from the coal-powered electric plants, yes, but we should think about the excessive price we have to pay if this many people have bad health due to the bad air quality," Mr Nelson said.

Committee for the Phasing Out of Leaded Fuel (KPBB) executive director Ahmad Safrudin, who is part of the movement, said this was not the first time citizens planned to sue the Jakarta administration over poor air quality.

"In May this year, we went to see Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan and urged him to take real action to reduce air pollution," Mr Ahmad told the Post.

"If we see the data from the last five years, the Jakarta air quality is far below the ambient air quality standards set by the government. The comparison is worse if we see the ambient air quality standards set by the World Health Organisation," he said.

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