Angry citizens sue Indonesian government over growing air pollution

Fed up about worsening air pollution in the Indonesian capital, a group of Jakarta residents is suing the country’s president.

Ayu Eza Tiara, one of the lawyers working on the case, said that 31 people had joined the lawsuit in the past week, which will be filed against President Joko Widodo, as well as the country’s Home Affairs Minister, Health Minister, Environmental Minister and the Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan.

Those joining the lawsuit are ordinary citizens, including artists, academics and businessmen, according to Ayu Eza Tiara, from the Jakarta Legal Institute.

“We have been trying so far to make it clear to the government how bad the pollution is in Jakarta and its impact, by showing them data and study research,” she said. “But … they have given a negative response to us.”

The government denied there had been a drop in quality air around Jakarta in the past year, and called on the media not to “dramatize” the situation.

But Bondan Andriyanu, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Indonesia, said air pollution has been steadily worsening.

The Indonesian capital had the worst air pollution in Asia on June 14, higher than any pollution black spots in China and India, Greenpeace said. On that day, Jakarta’s air quality rated 189, according to the US Air Quality Index, which is considered “unhealthy.”

According to the US embassy’s pollution meter, Jakarta’s AQI reading for June 2017 on average was 74. In June 2019, it was twice that — 148.

While Jakarta ranked 160th out of thousands of cities for overall air pollution in the 2018