Report reveals rapid environmental damage

Source: The Jakarta Post, November 03, 2003

By A. Junaidi


Indonesia is facingunchecked environmental deterioration, ranging from heighteningair and water pollution to the increase in critical land, the officeof the State Minister for the Environment said in its report. 

The Indonesia State ofEnvironment Report 2002, a copy of which was made availableto The Jakarta Post over the weekend, details factors that contributedto environmental deterioration last year. Despite the government’sefforts to address the issue, the condition was much worse lastyear than in previous years. The publication of the report, which will belaunched as a book, was financed by the United Nations for Environment Program(UNEP). The first environment report was issued by the state minister’soffice in 1992, but due to financial constraints, there was a ten-yeargap until the next report was produced. The 2002 report is only thesecond environment report to be published. 

A team of 13 experts atthe office of the State Minister for the Environmentconducted studies between 2001 and 2002 for the report. The reportdiscloses that air pollution in major cities across the country was mostlycaused by an increase in the number of vehicles on the roads. Industries,households and forest fires contributed to the poor air quality inmajor cities. The report concludes that these three factors were responsiblefor 30 percent of the overall air pollution. Thenumber of motorized vehicles in Indonesia has soared from 18.22 million in1999 to 18.97 million in 2000, and then to 20.78 million in 2001. Of these,99.9 percent are powered by leaded gasoline and diesel fuel. Massive forestfires in Sumatra and Kalimantan between July and October 2002 also contributedto air pollution and disrupting community health, as they causedrespiratory illnesses, it said.

Water pollution hasreached an alarming level due to industrial, household andfarmland wastes. “Many factories, notably in Riau and East Java, arestill dumping their liquidwaste to the river, so are thousands of householdsin Jakarta, Surabaya and Medan, while residues of fertilizer and pesticidehave also damaged water resources in farmlands,” the report said. Italso said official dump sites in major cities like Jakarta and Surabaya werenot properly managed and thus contributed to water pollution. Environmentaldamage was also reflected by the increasing area of critical landas a result of the swelling population, rampant forest fires and illegallogging. The environmental office found that illegal logging could notbe addressed properly because of the complexity of the problem stemming fromthe extensive number of involved parties. Instead of contributing towarda solution to the problem, the police, the military, prosecutors, customsand excise officials and regional administrations has only added to it,the report said.

Data from theenvironmental office showed that damage to forests across the countryhas affected 23.2 million hectares, while damage to mangrove forestshas reached 5.8 million hectares. The environmental destruction causedby forest degradation, land conversion and pollution has resulted in asignificant decrease in the country’s biodiversity. “Between 20 percentand 70 percent of specieshave vanished, according to data in 1993, and one specieshas disappeared every day in 1997 because of the environmentaldamage.”

The report attributed theincrease in natural disasters, such as floods and landslides,across the country last year to the worsening environmental condition,water and air pollution, forest fires and critical land created byillegal logging. SriHudyastuti, an editor, said the 151-page book provided an objective overviewof the real condition of Indonesia’s environment. “We want to draw thegovernment’s attention and incite a response from the government and, especially,the people, and ask them to participate in the environmental conservationmovement,” said Sri. She is also communication affairs assistantto the deputy state minister for the environment. She claimed the governmenthad set up several programs to salvage the environment, but it wouldbe useless without concerted public participation. 

Source: Indonesia State ofEnvironment Report 2002


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