Indonesia – Environmental protection near collapse

Indonesia's financial crisis has meant the nation's efforts to prevent pollution and environmental degradation are "on the brink of collapse" according to Mr Sudarsono, Secretary to Indonesia's Minister for Environment. - Special report by Asia Environmental Review (ASER).

The crisis has also meant that environmental management strategies have had to be adjusted, Sudarsono told a recent seminar in Australia on environmental business prospects in Indonesia. There has to be a reduced focus on monitoring and enforcement while more support is provided to meet basic human needs, he said. Environmental management policies during the crisis will need to focus on poverty alleviation and protecting human health, Sudarsono said.

Commenting on the passage last year of Law Number 23/1997 on Environmental Management, Sudarsono said the Government is now preparing eight regulations under the Act, including a revised regulation on environmental impact assessment, and regulations on air pollution control and solid waste. He added that the Government had recently appointed 24 ‘civil investigators’ to work with police officers on investigations of alleged breaches of environmental laws, including the illegal lighting of forest fires.

Despite the plummeting rupiah, the country’s investment in environmental equipment and services is not expected to fall away to zero, according to Yanti Koestoer, the Jakarta-based marketing manager with Australia’s Austrade. While the economic crisis has led to cuts in the government budget for environmental goods, the government is committed under the terms of its agreement with the IMF to establishing implementation rules for its new environment laws. And despite the dramatic drops in private sector activity, opportunities remain within the environment and water sectors because of internationally-funded projects in these sectors.

Only 5% of Urban Dwellers Sewer-Connected

By the end of 1997, about 49% of Indonesia’s urban population (37.2 million people) had access to clean drinking water through the public piped water supply system, according to Sunaryo Sumadji, Secretary General of Indonesia’s Ministry of Public Works. System losses constitute about 40% of total water production. Commenting on solid waste management in Indonesia, Sunaryo Sumadji noted that as at March 1998 public facilities for solid waste management were operating in 188 cities, servicing about 12.2 million people.
He also noted that as at the end of 1997, less than 5% of the urban population was served by a centralised sewer system. Meanwhile, Kar Sukardi, the Vice Chairman of BAPEDAL, Indonesia’s environment agency, told the seminar that “effective water quality management still remains our greatest challenge and our highest priority for pollution control”.

Little Confidence in Minister

Sources familiar with environmental policy issues in Indonesia have told ASER there is little confidence among environmentalists in Panangian Sirear, President Habibie’s choice of environment minister. These perceptions have been hardened by a recent decision by the minister to support import into Indonesia of hazardous waste from Singapore.

The Impact of ‘Reformasi’

Media reports about Indonesia and its economic and environmental challenges have uniformly painted a desperately bleak picture of the situation, particularly the future of Indonesia’s biodoversity. While these are accurate, another key element is sometimes left out of the story – the spirit of ‘reformasi’ (reformation) which is sweeping the country, leading to intense debate and discussions around the country on reforms to all aspects of Indonesia’s political and social systems. In a recent interview with ASER, Firsty Husbani of the Indonesian Centre for Environmental Law (ICEL) discussed the potential impact on environmental policy of this period of debate and rapid change in the midst of economic chaos.

“There are so many reformation networks in Indonesia at the moment” Husbani told ASER, with many of these networks involved in drafting regulations for the new Habibie-led government. ICEL itself is participating in a national consortium on legal reforms with each of its members focusing on a particular area of reform: political; economic; good governance and independent judiciary; and natural resources. ICEL is responsible for natural resources, but there are close links between the various areas. “Reformation is nothing without good governance,” she said, adding that an independent judiciary was also essential.

Commenting on the proposed decentralisation of environmental impact assessment (AMDAL) procedures, Husbani noted that decentralisation is a strong theme in all recent and proposed legislation. ICEL regards decentralisation as good, if corruption and nepotism is controlled, Husbani said. To achieve this, ICEL and other non-government organisations want improved community rights to participate in decision-making and planning. This can be achieved by reforming the Local Government Law of 1974 and the Village Act of 1978, she said. “Local communities have suffered from a lack of participation because of both Acts, she said.

ICEL was established in 1993 with the aim of improving environmental information dissemination to both regional non-government organisations and government. In 1994, ICEL’s executive director was appointed to the Environmental Law Reform Commission which did preparatory work on the Environmental Law eventually promulgated in 1997. Six of the eight principles advocated by ICEL for inclusion in the law were included:

– including provision for the right to information on the environment;

– the right to report environmental concerns to legal enforcers;

– out-of-court dispute resolution procedures;

– the right for non-government organisations to take legal action;

– the right to institute class actions; and

– the appointment of specialist investigators of alleged breaches of environmental laws.

However, regulations are needed to give full effect to many of these principles, Husbani said, and ICEL has recently submitted a draft regulation on alternative dispute resolution to the government. Another recently submitted regulation – on community rights to lodge a complaint over environmental incidents – was rejected by the government. ICEL is also considering whether to lobby for the development of an integrated natural resource management act.

Commenting on the program established by Indonesia’s environment agency BAPEDAL, which grades companies into various colours based on their environmentally performance, Firsty noted that while the program is a good idea, it has so far been applied to only a limited number of companies. “No more than 300 companies have so far joined the program she said.
Husbani was involved in an official review of the program, known as PROPER PROKASI. The review called for more community involvement in factory assessments and also called for the grading scheme to be made more transparent. “Until now BAPEDAL have been doing the reviews by themselves. We don’t know the standards that they use and we don’t know the methodology that they use, so we don’t know how valid the gold, the green the blue and the red are. The companies don’t know either – that is BAPEDAL’s policy.” According to Husbani, BAPEDAL has been fairly open to making the suggested changes to the program.

Contact: ICEL, Tel: +62 21 7394432 Fax: +62 21 7233390

For further information, please contact Philip Massey at:
Tel: + 44 1715815277

Fax: + 44 171 5891477

E-mail: [email protected]

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