The Jakarta Post
Environmental activists have submitted a class-action lawsuit against President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono over the claim he has failed to protect people in Riau province from the effects of climate change.
The lawsuit was also aimed at Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan, Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya and Riau Governor Rusli Zainal, who is now detained by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on graft charges.
'We filed this lawsuit to press President SBY to take action against his two ministers, whom we see as having no willingness to protect the public, especially the people of Riau province, from the effects of climate change,' Civil Society Forum for Climate Justice coordinator Mida Saragih told The Jakarta Post after filing the lawsuit at the Central Jakarta District Court on Monday.
Mida said the activists filed the lawsuit against the president because the people of Riau province were suffering from the effects of climate change, despite the President's pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020.
She said according to Law No. 32/2009 on environmental protection and management, the government had to provide a healthy environment. 'But we still see unsustainable development practices in Riau province,' she said.
Mida said climate change had caused the people of Riau to suffer from floods, droughts and acute respiratory infections. In July this year, Indragiri Hulu regency recorded an estimated 10,382 residents as suffering from such infections. The citizens also had to endure high temperatures.
'Temperatures reached as high as 37 degrees Celcius in Riau, the highest in the last 30 years.'
Mida added Riau had experienced massive land destruction caused by forest conversion from peatland into large-scale units of palm and timber plantations. 'The condition was exacerbated by illegal logging and slash-and-burn clearing activities,' she said.
The group slammed the forestry minister for issuing permits allowing business on peatland.
'Peatland is protected. One cannot open plantations in those areas because it can cause environmental damage,' Mida said.
According to 2013 data from environmental NGO Jikilahari Riau Forest Rescue Working Network, the provincial administration had issued 61 business licenses as of September 2013, allowing businesses to develop plantations on peatland. 'This action is against Law No. 32/2009,' she said.
They accused the environment minister of violating Presidential Regulation No. 71/2001 on the implementation of a national greenhouse gas inventory. 'The environment minister has not provided any guidance on regional action plans for greenhouse gasses. Provincial administrations need these guidances to do something,' Mida said.
Resa Radityo from the Indonesian Center of Environmental Law (ICEL) said the activists, as well as the people of Riau, hoped the government could put more effort into tackling the environmental impact of climate change.
'We hope the government does not only create new councils on environmental affairs, but implements actions to handle environmental problems,' he said. (tam)
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