Akarta residents await significant decision on clean air rights | Environmental news

Medan, Indonesia – Teacher Istu Prayog spent the 1990s in the overcrowded Indonesian capital, Akarta, battling nasal congestion, headaches and shortness of breath.

It turned out that the problem was around him, he was not the only one suffering.

“A lung specialist diagnosed my lungs as a result of air pollution,” Easton, a teacher at the Nusantara aya Aya Tourism Academy, told Al Jazeera.

“The government did not pay attention to the poor air quality in Indonesia.”

Currently, Easton is one of 32 plaintiffs transferred to the Depot satellite city in the suburbs of Wakarta. Guideline “Civil Litigation” It aims to hold the Indonesian government accountable for failing to exercise its right to clean air.

The Akarta Central District Court will rule on the case on June 10, after almost two years of legal dispute over who is to blame for the polluted air of a city that regularly ranks among the world’s most polluted according to world air quality. ,

Even last year, under the restrictions imposed to curb COVID-19, the streets of Jakarta were congested, with air pollution exceeding WHO և national guidelines. [File: Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana/Reuters]

A 2019 study by Vital Strategies և Bandung Institute of Technology (BIT) found that Indonesia had the highest number of premature deaths due to air pollution in Southeast Asia. The introduction also found that ak akarta is “the most dangerous contaminant for minor health (PM 2.5), typically four to five times higher than the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines.”

As part of a civil lawsuit, a legal process in which private citizens traditionally file lawsuits in practice, often used in environmental law cases, the plaintiffs do not seek financial redress, but instead hope that the lawsuit will raise public awareness. ակ Put pressure on the government on the issue of air pollution in Akarta.

The petition cites the President of Indonesia, the Minister of Nature Protection, the Minister of Forestry, the Minister of the Interior, the Governor of Akarta, the Governors of Banten, and the Governors of the West Java Java.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs asked the presiding judges to declare that the defendants had neglected the exercise of citizens’ rights to a healthy living, and to order them to tighten national air quality standards.

“We need a stronger legal framework, more advanced laws, more sanctions on air pollution,” Leonard Simanjuntak, director of Greenpeace Indonesia, who is also a private citizen, told Al aze Azira.

Human rights issue

Akarta has a population of more than 10 million people, but that number is more than 30 million when it includes thousands of industrial sites and production facilities in its five satellite cities and surrounding areas.

“This case is so important because we already know that breathing fresh air is our human right,” Bondan Andriyanu, a climate and energy advocate for Greenpeace Indonesia, told Al Jazeera.

“Air pollution on a large scale today clearly violates the right to life, the right to life, the right to a child to live in a safe, clean, healthy and stable environment. This human rights perspective changes everything, as the government then has clear, legally enforceable responsibilities to respect, protect and enforce human rights. [of the citizens]»

Greenpeace activists protested, demanding that the government take action to reduce air pollution in ak akarta at the ak akarta health ministry in indonesia in september 2017 [File: Tatan Syuflana/AP Photo]

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2016, outdoor air pollution (ambient air pollution) is estimated to cause 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide, 91% of which occurred in low- and middle-income countries, with the highest number of such deaths. , which occur in the WHO Southeast Asia և Western Pacific.

The WHO standard for annual ambient air quality is 10 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter of air, while Indonesia’s national standard is 15 micrograms.

But Bondan says official data on PM2.5 particles, which Greenpeace received from the Ministry of Nature Protection and Forestry (MOD) in 2020, a year when the coronavirus epidemic meant fewer trips in a few months. was: – showed 28.6 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

“If we compare the national quality standard of our national atmosphere with the WTO standard, we are still far behind. “Even at the time of the epidemic, the 2.5-year PM in Akarta exceeded the national standard for ambient air quality,” he said.

“My child rarely goes out to play”

The lawsuit was joined by Elisa Sutanudjayan, director of the Ruzhak Urban Development Center in Akarta.

She told Al aze Azira that she became aware of the poor air quality in Akarta during her pregnancy, and fears of air pollution only increased over time.

“As the parents of a 10-year-old girl, we almost always use public transport for a walk in Akarta or for a walk,” she told Al Jazeera. “But we found that we could not enjoy our journeys because of pollution, especially from car fumes. “Nowadays, children rarely go out to play.”

According to Vital Strategies և Bandung Institute of Technology (BIT) 2019 According to the report, for which air quality experts took samples from BIT in wet and dry weather from three locations around Akarta, the main sources of pollution in the city come from vehicles. , secondary aerosols, such as ammonium nitrate և ammonium sulphate, construction activities, open combustion of biomass և other fuels, paved road dust, suspended soil particles, sea salt և coal burning.

“The regulation of coal-fired power plants in Indonesia is so lenient,” said Leonard Greenpeace. “There are coal-fired power plants on the outskirts of Coal Akarta. If we use mathematical modeling, of course the emissions are transported to the city.”

Air quality has not improved since the lawsuit was filed two years ago. This picture shows last month’s ak akarta, with its high-rise offices and condominiums covered in smoke. [Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana/Reuters]

In addition to tightening coal emissions regulations, the plaintiffs also hope the government will reconsider its entire urban development strategy in the city.

“The central government, through the Ministry of Public Works, continues to push for toll roads, even though private vehicles are one of the biggest contributors to air pollution,” said Elisa. “I hope that through this trial, a strategy will be developed to change this model of unsustainable development, mobility policy.”

“As long as the development model is still focused on the car, there will be no significant improvements.”

For their part, the defendants denied the allegation that they were responsible for the harmful airtime of ak akarta.

“The plaintiffs have also contributed to the decline in air quality,” Ak Akarta Governor Anies Basvedan, who is being prosecuted as a defendant, told the media in 2019.

“Unless everyone rides a bicycle, it would be different. The reason for the air quality is not only one or two professions, but all of us, including those who have filed a civil lawsuit. ”

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