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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO – Plants seen from a roof as the smog blankets Jakarta, Indonesia on June 24, 2021. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

By Kate Lamb and Agustinus Beo Da Costa

JAKARTA (Reuters) – An Indonesian court ordered on Thursday President Joko Widodo and other senior government officials to improve the hazardous air quality of the capital Jakarta after finding them guilty of environmental negligence in a civil lawsuit.

This citizen lawsuit was filed against Joko Widodo and the ministers for health, environment, and home affairs. It also included other well-known local leaders.

According to the 32 plaintiffs, the suit was filed in 2019 as a last ditch effort to force authorities to address severe air pollution within Jakarta’s bustling metropolitan area. This is an area that houses more than 30,000,000 people.

Judges at Central Jakarta District Court found that defendants were guilty of violating the law in their verdict.

According to the ruling, the president must establish national standards of air quality in order to protect the public’s health. The health minister and governor of Jakarta are also required to create strategies for controlling air pollution.

“The defendants have been found negligent in controlling air pollution. Ayu Tiara, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said that she appreciated the verdict and was satisfied.

Also, the court directed defendants take additional measures including cross-border emission analysis, as well as periodic testing for emissions of older vehicles.

Fadjroel Raman, the spokesperson for President Fadjroel said any decisions about further action would rest with the environment minister.

Jakarta Governor Anies baswedan, in a tweet (NYSE:), stated that his administration wouldn’t appeal and would implement the ruling for cleaner air in Jakarta.

A request for comment was not received from the environment ministry, home affairs ministry and health ministry.

The Center on Energy and Clean Air claims that Jakarta’s urbanization and its high levels of chronic traffic has contributed to poor air quality.

Plaintiffs contended that authorities failed to protect citizens and that they were negligent. This was based on scientific evidence that suggests that pollutants can lead to conditions like asthma, heart disease, lower life expectancy, and other health problems.

According to IQAir, Jakarta was the 9th-worst major city in 2020 for PM.2.5 (fine particulate matter), which is an air pollution that poses a threat to health and can cause severe illness in humans.

Dhaka and Delhi topped the list, while Jakarta was the most dangerous in Southeast Asia.

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