Fri, 22 Aug 2003

Dialog used to urge polluters to change

Zakki Hakim, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

"Living in a polluted area is like dying a slow death," said Priyanto, a resident of heavily polluted Rawa Terate subdistrict near Jakarta International Estate Pulogadung (JIEP) in North Jakarta.

Priyanto, a member of Rawa Terate's Subdistrict Council, was speaking in a panel discussion held on Thursday by the city's Environmental Management Agency (BPLHD) and the Association of Indonesian Steel Billet, Wire Rod, Concrete Bars and Profile Producers (ABBEPSI).

Head of the agency Kosasih Wirahadikusumah told The Jakarta Post that the dialog was held to find a solution to the heavily polluted air in Rawa Terate area allegedly caused by some steel casting companies operating in the area.

The factories are, among others, PT Jakarta Cakratunggal Steel Mills, PT Jakarta Steel Megahutama, PT The Master Steel Mfg. Co and PT Jakarta Prima Steel Industries.

Kosasih said that the agency could penalize the companies, but that from past experience, it would not be effective.

The agency had forced a company, Tosan Prima Steel Industries, owned by the tycoon The Nin King to close, back in the early 1990s due to the severe pollution that the factory caused, he said.

After a while the factory was reopened, bearing a new name of Jakarta Prima Steel Industries that also owns Jakarta Cakratunggal Steel Mills. Both companies still cause heavy air pollution.

"We closed the factories. They reopened with new names. Pollution remains. The problem was not solved," he said.

Therefore, the agency chose to urge the factories to come up with their own solutions and their own schedule to implement changes. If they fail to change, the agency will sanction them.

Rudy Tambunan, an independent consultant for the agency, said that an agreement to find a mutually beneficial solution and a time schedule binding the polluting companies must be immediately established involving community leaders from the area and monitoring by the media.

Rudy, an expert from Indonesian Geographical Society, said that finding a solution was imperative because residents could demand that the City Council relocate the factories if they found the situation intolerable.

Priyanto said that residents realized that the factories had provided economic opportunities for them but he could not tell how long the residents could tolerate the heavy pollution.

Chairman of ABBEPSI, Wulahady Wulele, told the participants in the discussion that the residents also needed to be informed about the minimum acceptable level of emissions generated from the factories "because not all smoke generated is categorized as polluting."

Thursday's discussion was attended by experts from the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT), the R&D Institute of the Chemical Industry of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Krakatau Steel and dozens of members of ABBEPSI.

The experts expected that factory representatives would disclose their efforts in preventing or reducing air pollution.

Ridwan Panjaitan, head of the agency's Environmental Impact Prevention division, however, said that the factories seemed to need more time to openly admit their pollution problem.

"There will be more intensive meetings to ensure the immediate implementation of the pollution reduction program," he said.

It is reported that residents, including some health officials, in Rawa Terate subdistrict, have complained that yellowish brown smoke, coming from a number of steel casting factories surrounding the area, has been adversely affecting their health.

The agency has warned that any type of solids in the air such as smoke, dust and vapor, which remain suspended for extended periods, could cause cancer and bronchitis.