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Indonesia gov’t appeals Jakarta air pollution verdict

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Smog covers the Jakarta skyline on August 9, 2019. ANTARA

Indonesia gov’t appeals Jakarta air pollution verdict

The Indonesian government has filed an appeal against a recent Central Jakarta District Court ruling that found President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and other top government officials guilty of negligence for failing to tackle Jakarta’s chronic air pollution.

Environment ministry expert staffer Ilyas Asaad said the president, the environment, home, and health ministries had filed the appeal with the Jakarta High Court on September 29.

“An appeal is just an ordinary mechanism [to be used] if we have something that we object to [in a ruling],” Ilyas told the Jakarta Post last week.

He said the government’s decision to appeal the ruling was driven by the failure of the judges to take into account a new regulation pertaining to air quality, namely Government Regulation (PP) No 22/2021.

The PP, a derivative regulation of the Job Creation Law, updates provisions in PP No 41/1999 on air pollution control.

The new regulation, issued on February 2, requires governors, mayors and regents to commission studies analysing the causes of air pollution in the regions they lead, among other provisions. The data from the studies is to be handed over to the central government to allow it to formulate a nationwide air pollution control policy.

State Secretariat expert staffer Faldo Maldini noted that the government remained committed to improving air quality, regardless of the ruling and the results of the ensuing appeal.

In contrast to the central government’s response, hours after the verdict was read on September 16, Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan said the city administration would not appeal the ruling.

The Central Jakarta District Court ruled in partial favour of 32 residents of Greater Jakarta grouped under the Capital City Coalition, which in 2019 sued the president, the environment, health and home ministers, as well as the governors of Jakarta, Banten and West Java, for failing to improve air quality in the capital city.

In the ruling, the court said the officials had broken the law. It ordered them to tighten the city’s air quality regulations and to ensure that the Jakarta administration’s efforts to tackle air pollution were supervised. The judges, however, declined to rule that the actions of the officials had constituted a violation of human rights as the petitioners had demanded.

The plaintiffs said in a recent statement that they had decided to accept the verdict, even though some of their demands had not been fully met.

Ayu Eza Tiara, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the coalition was disappointed that the central government had decided to appeal the ruling.

“We were hoping that the government would actually do what the verdict told them to do,” Ayu told the Jakarta Post.

She added that although appealing to a higher court was a common legal procedure, doing so would likely lengthen the time that Jakarta’s citizens would have to deal with unhealthy air as the appeal could affect the Jakarta administration’s policies to improve air quality.

“We hope that the central government withdraws its appeal or at least immediately starts to clean up the air without waiting for the final verdict,” Ayu said.

Jakarta’s severe air pollution stems mostly from vehicle emissions, factories and coal-fired power plants.

In a recent report by the C40 Cities network, Jakarta was in the top three of 61 cities observed worldwide for premature deaths related to air pollution from coal-fired power plants. In 2019, more than 1,500 deaths in the city were attributed to the burning of coal.

That figure is expected to double to more than 3,000 fatalities by 2030, by which time a number of new coal-fired power plants are expected to be operational.

THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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