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Jakarta Citizens Take Legal Action to Improve Air Quality

2019-7-19

A group of Indonesian citizens is suing the government in an effort to force action to reduce air pollution in the capital Jakarta.

At least 31 citizens joined the effort to bring the legal action earlier this month. The citizens say the government has done little to try to cut severe pollution levels.

FILE - People cross a road during a rush hour traffic in Jakarta, Indonesia, March 29, 2019. Indonesia's air quality has deteriorated from among the cleanest in the world to one of the most polluted over the past two decades.
FILE - People cross a road during a rush hour traffic in Jakarta, Indonesia, March 29, 2019. Indonesia's air quality has deteriorated from among the cleanest in the world to one of the most polluted over the past two decades.

The Switzerland-based air quality-monitoring group Air Visual rates world cities on an Air Quality Index of 500. A rating of 151-200 is considered to be “unhealthy,” while 201-300 is seen as “very unhealthy.” In late June, Jakarta reached a level of 231.

Istu Prayogi says that for the past 10 years, he has experienced headaches and difficulty breathing as a result of Jakarta’s polluted air.

He told VOA that doctors told him to wear a cover at all times for protection. But he says he does not like the way it feels. “I’m sure there are many others who complain about the same thing and have the same illness,” he said.

Even though Prayogi now lives in an area outside Jakarta, he worked and lived in the capital for 30 years.

The lawsuit was brought against Indonesian President Joko Widodo as well as the environment minister, the governor of Jakarta and other officials.

Ayu Eza Tiara is a lawyer for the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute, a not-for-profit organization that provides legal assistance to citizens. The group joined other organizations in representing individuals in the case.

“We want a change in public policy, and a tangible act,” Tiara told VOA. “What are the plans?”

Tiara also said the government should provide all necessary information to the public on the current effects of air pollution on people in the city.

Tiara added that the group has been demanding government action to improve Jakarta air quality since 2016. “We’ve been waiting for the government to make changes and improve the air quality. But there was no such thing, so we have to resort to a lawsuit,” she said.

Tiara admitted, however, that the legal process will take months, or possibly years. “But we are determined,” she said.

In answer to the lawsuit, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan blamed much of the air pollution problems on drivers in the city. He urged citizens in Jakarta to use public transportation to reduce pollution levels.

Jakarta is home to more than 10 million people and 18 million vehicles, including cars and motorcycles.

Andono Warih, acting head of Jakarta’s Environment Office, also recently noted the problem of vehicle emissions. “Of the cause of pollution in Jakarta, 75 percent comes from transportation,” he said.

The Forum for the Environment, an environmental activist group, also represented citizens in the case. Tubagus Soleh Ahmadi is director of the group. He said government officials need to do more to inform citizens about all the causes of pollution. He also said that current requirements for air quality limits are too low.

While he agrees that vehicle emissions are a major pollution problem, Ahmadi said officials need to take more action to reduce them. “Yes, the main source is from transportation, what about mandatory emission tests for vehicles and the industry?” he asked.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Amanda Siddharta reported this story for VOA News. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for Learning English, with additional information from Reuters. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

sue v. take legal action against a person or organization

complain v. express unhappiness about something

tangible adj. something that is real and can be seen

resort to v. do something that you do not want to do because you cannot find any other way of completing it

determined adj. having a very strong desire to do something

emission n. the act of producing or sending out something (such as energy or gas) from a source

mandatory n. required to do