Monday, January 08, 2007

Group sees the environment as election issue

Friday, January 05, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Jakarta chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi Jakarta) says the next governor should have a keen understanding of the current issues that are key to the enforcement of environmental law.

In its year-end report, made public Wednesday, the organization said weak law enforcement had led to the development of environmental problems in the city.

"Moreover, the administration's development policies deny public participation, which has resulted in human-caused environmental damage over the years," Walhi Jakarta chairman Selamet Daroyni said.

The report notes the major problems in Jakarta's environmental history, including air, water and land pollution, floods, droughts, the inadequate waste management system and poor energy choices.

"Up to 70 percent of air pollution in Jakarta comes from vehicle emissions. This figure alone is enough to show that if the city government does not introduce a good macro-transportation system, we will continue to breath in polluted air," Selamet said.

The report says the city is at a critical juncture with losses due to air pollution estimated at Rp 4.3 trillion in 2015, compared to Rp 1.8 trillion in 1998.

Atmospheric pollutants and irritants have been linked to chronic respiratory problems.

The group predicts that in 2007, the concentration of particles in the air will change as the energy crisis has forced the government to push some regulations that pursue the use of coal in industry.

Although the city's water management is contracted out to two private companies, the quality of water is not getting better.

"Many people drink groundwater, which is 75 to 85 percent contaminated by E-coli and other fecal coliform, as the waterworks' pumping and purifying equipment is only sufficient to supply 45 percent of Jakartans," Selamet added.

Whereas water shortages are experienced in the dry season, floods leave 370,000 families homeless in the rainy season, with total losses estimated at Rp 92.5 billion per day.

Data from the city public works agency shows that Jakarta has 78 flood-prone areas, while data from the Central Statistics Agency says the city has about 500 flood-prone areas.

The city administration has allocated about Rp 500 billion to prevent this annual disaster, but Walhi Jakarta says most of the money has been spent on dredging waterways and buying pumps, which will not significantly help in controlling floods.

The city's poor waste management system is also putting residents at risk of disaster.

"Jakarta produces 6,000 tons of garbage daily but the administration can only manage 88 percent," Selamet said. "The government's master plan for waste-management until 2015 clearly shows they are merely reliant on the technology of private institutions to solve the problem."

The conversion of conservation areas to commercial areas is also blamed for environmental hazards.

"In 1965, about 27 percent of Jakarta was green open space. In 2000, it dropped to 13 percent and now it is only 9 percent. This is a serious problem. The administration has been inconsistent in enforcing the environmental impact analysis requirements for development projects. It accommodates business interests while ignoring the environment," Selamet said.

So far, the group said, none of the gubernatorial candidates seemed to have a good grasp of current environmental issues.

"This will simply lead to the mobilization of resources for gaining power and the neglect of the people and environmental issues," Selamet said.

Indonesia has ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which requires the state to respect and observe human rights and freedoms, including the right to a clean environment.

The group expressed hope for a new perspective in policy-making that did not discriminate against the poor or ignore environmental hazards and their abatement.

"These changes include the revision of the city's spatial plan and the provision of a low-cost, safe public transportation system, as well as an end to the eviction of the poor," Selamet said. (02)

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