Born and raised in the bustling megacity of Jakarta, Indonesia’s densely populated, traffic-choked capital, environmentalist Khalisah Khalid has long anguished over the city’s air.
Her young daughter has been plagued by ill health from birth, issues she believes are exacerbated by air pollution.
“Her health is increasingly being threatened with Jakarta’s increasingly dirty air quality,” Khalisah said of her daughter, now aged 10. “We want the government to make rules to ensure citizens have a good environment and air.”
The 42-year-old mother is one of 32 plaintiffs in a citizen lawsuit against the Indonesian president, the ministers of health, environment and home affairs, and several regional leaders, demanding that they fix the air pollution problem.
The Central Jakarta District Court had been expected to rule on the 2019 lawsuit yesterday, but Khalisah said that this had been postponed because judges needed more time to consider their ruling.
Of the world’s cities with the worst air pollution last year, the top 148 are in the Asia-Pacific region, data from Swiss air quality technology company IQAir showed.
The plaintiffs’ legal team has said that Indonesian authorities have been environmentally negligent by failing to protect its citizens from the health effects of air pollution.
Scientific research shows that poor air quality can lead to asthma, coronary heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and decreased life expectancy, the team said.
Irvan Pulungan, the Jakarta governor’s special envoy on climate change, said that the city had passed new regulations since the suit was filed, including on installing solar panels in government buildings and encouraging emissions tests.
In 2019, Jakarta announced new curbs on use of private vehicles.
Air quality monitoring PM2.5 (fine particle matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers) by the US embassy in Jakarta in 2019 showed that there were 172 unhealthy days, more than half of the year.
Despite restrictions, Jakarta’s air quality did not significantly improve during the COVID-19 pandemic, with satellite imaging showing power plants in neighboring provinces operating as usual, the Center on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) said in a report in August last year, which analyzed transboundary air pollution in Jakarta and its surrounding areas.
CREA identified 136 registered industrial facilities, including power plants, in high-emitting sectors in Jakarta and within a 100km radius of the city borders.
Coal-fired power plants expose people to toxic particles, some microscopic, such as PM2.5, ozone, and from nitrogen oxides and heavy metals such as mercury, it said.
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