Sunday, June 24, 2007

Regional administrations 'ignoring' green issues

Friday, June 22, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Regional administrations have failed to pay proper attention to environmental issues, a national meeting of green organizations said Thursday.

The problems have been inadequately addressed because there are few environmental offices in regions as the tasks and responsibilities of such offices had been attached to the local offices of ministries, it said.

"Many development policies in regions have ignored the conservation and protection of the environment. Many environmental problems have not been properly addressed as they had been handled by other agencies or joint agencies. Only 34 percent of these (environmental) institutions are independent," State Minister of the Environment Rachmat Witoelar told a national coordination meeting on regional environmental institutions here.

Citing a 2006 survey of regional administrations, Rachmat said that only 6.4 percent of regional administration heads were concerned about environmental issues, while 37 percent of them were a little concerned, 47 percent less concerned and 9 percent not concerned at all. There are 443 regencies and municipalities nationwide.

The minister named institutional problems at regional administrations, including unstandardized agencies, overlapping tasks and authority among agencies, a lack of quality and quantity of human resources in comparison to the complexity of environmental problems, lack of funds and infrastructure and lack of coordination among regional institutions as the main problems.

Sustainable development programs at the regional level could only be run by environmentally conscious regional administrations and people, and environment-sensitive councilors, said Rachmat.

Chairuddin Hasyim, deputy assistant for environmental institutions at the Environment Ministry said there were 13 different existing regional institutions handling environmental issues.

Hasyim said different recognition of the need to establish regional environment institutions occurred because many local administrations misunderstood a 2003 government regulation stating that regional environmental institutions could be established to handle environmental pollution and damage.

"They look at it as if there is no need to have an institution if there is no environmental damage or pollution. In fact, when we talk about the environment, we would be better off conserving rather than repairing the damage," Hasyim told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of the meeting.

The Home Ministry is helping the Environment Ministry with the formulation of the main tasks and functions of a new regional environmental institution.

"These main tasks and functions will become a reference for the regency or municipal legislative councils in allocating appropriate funds for the institution," said Hasyim.

The meeting, attended by more than 100 local administration heads as well as speakers from regency and municipal legislative councils, was expected to come up with a commitment to develop independent agencies for environmental issues, to upgrade human resource quality and to provide proper facilities and infrastructure for these institutions.

Director general for regional development at the Home Ministry, Syamsul Arief Rivai, said environmental issues should be treated as key issues in development and that the chain of natural disasters hitting the country were not merely natural phenomena, but the results of human behavior. (02)

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