National

Environment bill likely
to empower ministry

Legislators and officials held meetings in Jakarta on Wednesday to finalize an environmental bill, which will give the environment ministry the authority to arrest polluters and revoke business permits.

Legislator Sonny Keraf said that once the bill was passed into law, the Office for the State Minister
of the Environment would have more power.

“The only way to protect the environment is by giving more power to the environment ministry,” he said on the sidelines of a draft discussion at a luxury hotel in Jakarta on Wednesday.

Legislators of the House of Representatives’ commission VII overseeing the environment, officials from the Home Ministry and the Office for the State Minister of the Environment as well as environmentalists have run closed-door meetings in Jakarta since Sunday.

“We have been here since Sunday, working until late into the night to finish the draft,” Sonny said.

The discussion on the draft law, initiated by the House, began last year after the government failed to submit a draft revision of the 1999 Environmental Law.

Since June this year, government officials have intensified internal discussions about the proposed environmental bill.

“We are optimistic the bill can be passed before the House finishes its term in September,” said Ilyas Asaad, the deputy minister for environmental compliance.

The draft law stipulates that the State Minister for the Environment will have the authority to terminate business permits if firms fail to obtain environmental permits.

The bill further proposes that civil investigators from the ministry will have the power to arrest and detain people harming the environment.

Under the existing 1999 Environmental Law, civilian investigators are only permitted to seek explanation and evidence from individuals or legal bodies in connection with criminal violations of environmental law.

Based on the 1999 law, the results of those investigations are submitted to the police, who then choose how to pursue the crime. Under the existing law, violators face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a Rp 500 million fine.

The ministry and activists have long complained about the lack of law enforcement, claiming that civilian investigators need more authority.

Article 99 of the draft law says that people or businesses polluting water or air sources could face a maximum of nine years in prison and/or a Rp 10 billion fine.

Article 105 stipulates that anybody importing hazardous waste could face a maximum 12 years in prison and/or a Rp 12 billion fine.

The draft also allows mayors, regents and governors to issue new environmental licenses, depending on the size and scope of the business activity.

Ilyas said the draft stressed the need to enforce the Amdal system to help prevent environmental damage as many companies currently operated without Amdal (environmental impact report) documents.

“Under the proposed law, no companies will be able to run businesses without Amdal in the future,” Ilyas said.

Since the regional autonomy law was enforced in 2001, local administrations have been authorized to issue an Amdal.

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