Tue, 16 Dec 2003

Companies to face trial over toxic waste

eony Aurora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A group of lawyers will sue at the Cibinong District Court, Bogor regency, on Tuesday large companies for allegedly producing untreated toxic waste that had polluted the air and groundwater in Munjul, east of Jakarta.

Public Interest Environmental Lawyers (PIEL), acting on behalf of the E-LAW Indonesia non-governmental organization, accused PT Nasional Panasonic Gobel Indonesia and PT Indo Lysaght of violating government regulation No. 18/1999 on the treatment of hazardous and toxic materials.

In a draft of the suit made available to The Jakarta Post on Monday, the lawyers have also named the Office of the State Minister of the Environment and the City Environmental Impact Management Agency as would-be accused because of their alleged failure to uphold the regulation.

The owner of small waste recycling business UD Kurnia, Maslan Helmi, who had been convicted in 2002 of illegally recycling hazardous materials -- including electronics and batteries -- and Nani Lope, owner of the now-closed recycling business CV Sumber Utama, East Jakarta, will also be charged under this lawsuit.

"UD Kurnia bought the waste from the first and second parties (PT Indo Lysaght and PT Nasional Gobel Indonesia), so why weren't the two companies charged as well?" asked Maulana Adam Humaidy, executive director of PIELs on Monday in Jakarta,

Article 1, Chapter 60 of ruling No. 18/1999 said that the producers, as well as collectors and users, of hazardous waste must immediately manage pollution or environmental destruction due to their activities.

The Munjul case made headlines three years ago as residents complained about bitter-tasting groundwater and outbreaks of disease, such as rashes, ulcers, headaches and digestion problems, plus a foul stench in the air. They highlighted toxic waste pollution as the culprit.

An assessment made by the environmental impact management agency found heavy metal in the wells around the area.

A sample of water, taken in November 2000, showed it contained 2,758 parts per million (ppm) of lead and 4,078 ppm of zinc. The allowable level of the metal in the water is only 0.05 ppm and 15 ppm respectively.

PT Indo Lysaght, according to PIELS, produces zinc oxide, a material for tires.

One of PIEL's demands in the lawsuit is that the companies, as toxic waste producers, bear the greatest responsibility in restoring the damaged environment.

"The phase for advocacy to society on environmental matters has passed. Now is the time to take serious action against polluting companies," said a PIEL member who wished to remain anonymous.