Monday, June 20, 2005

Survey finds pollution remains unchecked

Source: The Jakarta Post

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Jakarta's water, air and land continue to be heavily polluted by poisonous materials originating from households and factories, a survey shows.

Data from the Jakarta Environmental Management Agency (BPLHD) revealed that all 13 rivers here have been heavily polluted with industrial and domestic chemical wastes over the last several years.

BPHLD pollution control unit head Junani Kartawiria said that the average water pollution index in all rivers in Jakarta has reached more than 31 points, far above the tolerable level of under 10.

"The score shows that rivers here are heavily polluted with many dangerous materials. Both households and industry play a role in polluting the rivers," she told The Jakarta Post.

Junani said that her office's survey on water in household wells showed that around 75 percent of well water in the city is contaminated with E. coli bacteria.

As river water ends up in the sea, sea water along Jakarta's shoreline has also been affected. In addition, there have been at least four cases of sea pollution since 2004 around the Thousand Islands.

In April 2004, for example, 30 islets were polluted with oil, while similar incidents occurred in October 2004 and February 2005. Around 10,000 fish and turtles died in those incidents.

No action was taken against the persons or companies responsible for the oil spills, despite the fact that the agency and police handled the cases.

BPLHD has warned at least 13 companies about polluted rivers in the capital.

On March 30, the agency gave administrative sanctions to four companies -- PT United Can Co., PT Alaska Extrusindo, PT Hawaii Confectionery and PT Sinar Antjol -- because their waste exceeded pollution standards, while on May 20 another nine companies, including PT Artha Buana Sakti, PT Wirontono Baru, and CV Perfecta Textile, were given warnings.

Junani said that in all these years, her office has only reported one company to the police for pollution offenses that was subsequently prosecuted in court.

"Usually, we warn them first, and we give three months to make their waste tolerable. If they still ignore our warnings we block their waste pipes, and give them another three months. They can still do their business, but they can't dispose of their waste. If they still can't improve their waste, then we report the case to police," she said.

This means, she said, that it could take months or even years for an environmental case to reach court.

To make matters worse, although city police have a special unit for handling environmental violations based on Law No. 23/1997 on pollution, they seem to wait for reports from BPLHD before handling cases.

"We have to have a report from BPLHD to be able to deal with a case. We can directly handle a case if someone dies or the pollution has made huge impact on the public," Adj. Sr. Comr. Haydar, chief of natural resource unit at the city police, told the Post.