JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Indonesian President Joko Widodo and several other senior government officials have been found guilty of environmental negligence in a civil lawsuit for failing to tackle chronic air pollution, a Jakarta court ruled on Thursday (Sept 16).
The citizen lawsuit was filed in 2019 against the President, also known as Jokowi, the ministers of health, environment and home affairs, as well as other prominent local leaders.
The 32 plaintiffs said the lawsuit was a last-ditch attempt to compel the authorities to take action against severe air pollution in the bustling metropolis of Jakarta and its surrounds, an area home to more than 30 million people.
In its verdict, judges at the Central Jakarta District Court said the actions of the five defendants had contravened the law.
The ruling obliges the President to establish national ambient air quality standards to protect human health, and the health minister and Jakarta governor to devise strategies to control air pollution.
"The defendants were found to be negligent at controlling air pollution. We appreciate the verdict, and we are satisfied," Ms Ayu Eza Tiara, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs said.
The court did not rule that the actions of the defendants violated human rights, but did order other measures be taken, including an analysis of cross border emissions, and for older vehicles to be periodically tested for emissions.
Presidential spokesman Fadjroel Rahman said decisions regarding any further action would fall on the environment minister.
The Jakarta governor's office said it was reviewing the decision.
The environment ministry, the home affairs ministry, and the health ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It was not immediately clear if the ruling would be appealed.
Rapid urbanisation and chronic traffic in Jakarta, along with nearby coal-fired power plants, have contributed to the hazardous air quality, according to the Centre on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).
In the trial, the plaintiffs argued that the authorities had been negligent by failing to protect citizens, pointing to scientific research that air pollution could cause conditions such as asthma, heart disease and lower life expectancy.
IQAir's World Air Quality report for 2020 said Jakarta was the ninth-worst capital city globally in terms of PM2.5 levels, or fine particulate matter, an air pollutant that can be dangerous to human health in high levels.
New Delhi and Dhaka topped the global ranking, but the index showed that Jakarta was the worst in South-east Asia.