In Today's Issue: Weary of Thick Air Pollution, Jakarta Residents Sue President

The following story appeared in the [post_published] issue of The Daily Juice. The text is from the 9th-10th grade version. To access the other grade levels, interactive vocabulary (words in bold), quiz questions, and more, sign up for The Juice.

Residents of Jakarta, Indonesia , are so discouraged by their government’s failure to curb  severe air pollution in their city that they’ve filed a rare citizen lawsuit. They want to force the country’s leaders to address the issue.

Jakarta is a megacity of 29 million people, one of the world’s largest. Many environmental groups consider it the most polluted area in Southeast Asia. The lawsuit demands that national and local governments establish stricter pollution standards and strictly enforce such rules in Jakarta’s metropolitan region. It specifically cites Indonesian President Joko Widodo, three of his cabinet ministers, and three provincial governors. The lawsuit claims they’ve been negligent in their public duties by failing to reduce pollution.

A three-judge panel was expected to rule on that yesterday. But that ruling was delayed for procedural reasons. A hearing will be held next month instead.

A British consulting firm last month released a study that said Jakarta was “ plagued with dire air pollution” and is the city most at risk among the 576 cities it studied for environmental health. The region also faces a high risk of earthquakes and flooding.

The pollution is so thick in Jakarta that some doctors have advised people with heart and lung ailments to wear face masks. Some residents who have never smoked show signs of the same level of lung disease found in cigarette smokers.

What is Indonesia?

The Republic of Indonesia is a country in Southeast Asia between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Indonesia is an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands including Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi, and sections of Borneo and New Guinea. It is the world’s largest island nation and 14th largest by sheer land area. Its population tops 270 million people, making it the fourth most populous country. 


Public Domain courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


What is Jakarta?

With roughly 29 million residents in its metropolitan area, Jakarta is the largest city in Indonesia and one of the largest in the world. It is also Indonesia’s capital city. Jakarta is situated on the northwest coast of Java at the mouth of the Ciliwung (Liwung River), on Jakarta Bay, which is connected to the Java Sea.


What is Jakarta known for?

Jakarta’s population grew dramatically during the second half of the 20th century. Today, it is one of Asia’s most important industrial and commercial hubs, and its port plays a significant role in international trade. The city and its metropolitan region are filled with iron foundries and repair shops, margarine and soap factories, and printing works. Also part of its manufacturing base are machinery, cigarettes, paper, glassware, and wire cable. The city also is home to tanneries, sawmills, textile mills, food-processing plants, breweries, and a burgeoning film industry.


The region’s cost of living continues to rise. Land is increasingly more expensive and rents are high. The central city boasts commerce and banking as its main engines, while housing and industrial development are located on the outskirts of the region. The Indonesian Chamber of Commerce is active in promoting trade with other countries. The popular Jakarta Fair, held over the summer months each year, also promotes trade. Jakarta accounts for roughly one-fourth of Indonesia’s trade and services and two-thirds of its banking and financial sectors .


What else is Indonesia known for?

It is also a premier vacation destination, with the island of Bali being especially popular with tourists. Bali offers plentiful rice fields, scenic beaches, and cascading green mountains. Tourists also enjoy Hindu ceremonies, shadow puppet shows, and traditional dance shows.


How is Indonesia governed?

It is a republic with a presidential system. In 1998, the country underwent sweeping political change with amendments added to its constitution reforming its legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government. This shift spread much power to provincial and regional bodies, but kept a single national state with a president at the helm. A national legislative assembly exists with limited duties: to support and amend the constitution, inaugurate and impeach the president, and ratify broad guidelines of foreign policy. 


Have the US and Indonesia intersected much in history?

During the Cold War between the US and Soviet Union, Indonesia was a political battleground. The US, Soviet Union, and China all became involved in trying to influence internal Indonesian politics, especially during a 1965 coup attempt and in the politically chaotic years that followed. 


How did Jakarta, in particular, become so polluted?

Rapid industrial and population growth both have contributed to Jakarta’s air pollution problem. The huge metropolitan region is loaded with pollution-spewing factories, and its roadways are jammed with millions of gas-powered vehicles for workers and families. The government, meanwhile, has instituted few green-oriented government regulations. In addition, Jakarta’s consistent warm, humid air temperatures throughout the year keep the polluted carbon dioxide-laden air settled close to the Earth.


And the pollution has grown so severe that everyday residents are concerned?

Yes. Children’s ailments , such as asthma and other respiratory illnesses, are on the rise and believed to be related to pollution. The bodies of young people are still developing and can be more vulnerable to toxic air pollution, according to medical experts. 


Research also indicates that long-term exposure to air pollution can worsen the effects of COVID-19. Indonesia has reported more than 1.7 million cases, the largest number in Southeast Asia. “I am worried about the future of young people in Indonesia,” Yuyun Ismawati, a co-founder of the environmental group Nexus3 Foundation, told The New York Times. Ismawati is among the plaintiffs in a rare citizen-led lawsuit against the Indonesian national government, including President Joko Widodo. The lawsuit seeks immediate government action to reduce air pollution and wants to hold Widodo and several of his top ministers accountable for inaction in this area.

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