The Jakarta Post
As the government accelerates work on infrastructure projects, the Environment and Forestry Ministry is preparing a plan to improve environmental safeguards in a bid to minimize the environmental damage brought about by the expansion of construction work across Indonesia.
Laksmi Wijayanti, the ministry's deputy assistant on natural resource utilization and environmental policy assessment, said on Tuesday that President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo would soon issue a government regulation (PP) on the Strategic Environmental Assessment (KLHS), a document used to evaluate the environmental impact of plans and policies.
'If things go well, then the PP will be issued within the next two to three months,' she told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
Laksmi said that the PP would strengthen the implementation of the KLHS so that hidden environmental costs could be minimized.
'The PP includes guarantees of quality control, public accountability and the clear division of authority between government institutions to develop their own internal systems and clear standards [of environmental assessment],' she said.
Ultimately, the PP will bring environmental safeguards to the forefront of the environmental agenda, Laksmi said.
'This PP will hand a primary role to the KLHS in decision-making, such as the power to recommend the revocation of permits,' she said.
The government was scheduled to issue the government regulation in 2014. The PP has long been mandated by Law No. 32/2009 on Environmental Protection and Management.
'The biggest challenge [to finalizing the PP] is the shifting focus [of government]. The merging [of the environment and forestry ministries] as well as last year's raging forest fires also affected [the process]. But now the draft has been synchronized with proposals from relevant ministries,' Laksmi said.
According to the law, all major plans will have a KLHS as part of the planning process and not after the plan has been finalized.
In the KLHS, all possible impacts, including biophysical, chemical, social, economic, health and cultural issues, will be assessed in a systematic way.
The KLHS will also focus on strategic issues that cut across boundaries, population groups, regions, areas and projects.
Ideally, the externalized costs of a plan and policy should be calculated to give an idea of what hidden costs may be present.
If done well, a KLHS will act as a policy dialogue tool for planners and policy-makers to engage the public and experts in making policies that are expected to be environmentally-friendly.
However, Laksmi said that the implementation had been hindered by the lack of a PP.
'The problem came from the lateness of the PP, which should have served as a legal umbrella for each [government institution]. At the moment, it's like a free-for-fall where everyone interprets the law by themselves,' she said.
Another problem is that local governments rarely implement a KLHS and almost never include it in their regional spatial planning (RTRW) process.
The government recently came under fire for allegedly bypassing existing regulations as it rushed to complete the permit for the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail project.
Critics blasted the 'irregular' Environmental Impact Assessment (Amdal) approval process, arguing that some necessary steps had been skipped, including the data gathering process, cut down to one week from six months, and the impact of the project on water catchment in the Saguling and Citarum areas near Bandung, West Java.
Besides the KLHS, another commonly used environmental safeguarding tool in the country is the Amdal, which had not been fully respected.
The director of business and activities environmental impact mitigation at the Environment and Forestry Ministry, Ary Sudijanto, said that it was difficult to monitor the implementation of Amdal given that there were more than 500 regencies and municipalities in the country.
'We have to improve our capacity [to monitor the implementation of the Amdal] in more than 500 regencies/cities. That's really difficult.'
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