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Indonesian court finds president negligent over air pollution in Jakarta

JAKARTA, Indonesia – An Indonesian court has ordered President Joko Widodo and other senior government officials to improve the unsafe air quality in the capital Jakarta after finding them guilty of environmental negligence in a civil lawsuit.

Dasrul Chaniago, director of the environment ministry for air pollution management, said on Friday that an appeal would be lodged against the court’s decision.

The lawsuit was filed in 2019 against the president, the ministers of health, environment and interior, as well as other prominent local leaders.

The 32 plaintiffs said the lawsuit was a final attempt to force authorities to take action against severe air pollution in bustling metropolis Jakarta and its surroundings, an area home to more than 30 million people.

In his verdict, judges at the Jakarta Central District Court said the defendants’ actions violated the law.

The decision requires the president to set national air quality standards to protect human health, and the health minister and governor of Jakarta to devise strategies to control air pollution.

“The defendants were found to be negligent in controlling air pollution. We appreciate the verdict and are satisfied,” Ayu Eza Tiara, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, told Reuters.

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The court also ordered the defendants to take other measures, including a cross-border emissions analysis, and periodically subject older vehicles to emissions tests.

Presidential spokesman Fadjroel Rahman said decisions on any further action would rest with the environment minister.

In a Twitter post, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said his administration would not appeal and was ready to implement the decision to get cleaner air in the capital.

Environmental activists hold placards outside the Jakarta Central Court during the trial, in which the plaintiffs argued authorities had been negligent in failing to protect citizens.Willy Kurniawan / Reuters

The Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rapid urbanization and chronic traffic in Jakarta, along with nearby coal-fired power plants, have contributed to poor air quality, according to the Center on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).

During the trial, the plaintiffs argued that authorities had been negligent in failing to protect citizens, pointing out that scientific research could cause conditions such as asthma, heart disease and lower life expectancy.

IQAir’s report on the world’s air quality for 2020 said Jakarta was the ninth capital of the world in terms of levels of PM.2.5, or fine particles, an air pollutant that can be hazardous to human health. at high levels.

Delhi and Dhaka lead the world rankings, but the index showed Jakarta to be the worst in Southeast Asia.