Fri, 24 Nov 2000

Move to ban leaded gasoline gains support

JAKARTA (JP): The move to stop the use of leaded gasoline gained further support on Thursday when a legislative commission sanctioned it, a proposal will also be submitted to the government by several non-governmental organizations in the hope that it will be issued as a presidential decree.

The House of Representatives Commission VIII for science, technology and the environment at a hearing with the Forum for the Phasing Out of Leaded Gasoline, urged the government, especially the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources and the State Ministry for the Environment, to draw up both short and long-term plans to make Jakarta leaded gasoline-free by June next year and the whole country by January 2003.

Commission chairman Irwan Prayitno told The Jakarta Post, after the two-hour hearing, that a ban on leaded gasoline was urgently needed in the country.

"Other countries have outlawed leaded gasoline. Furthermore, leaded gasoline aggravates air pollution in the country which is poisoning our people," Irwan added.

It was the second visit by the forum to the House. The forum had previously met with legislators from Commission VII for population and welfare affairs.

Irwan, a member of the Reform Faction, also rejected a recent government statement which said that the government was not able to phase out leaded fuel at the present time as there were more immediate demands on the state's limited resources.

"That's only an excuse. Actually there are many investors ready to invest in this area, even with a marginal profit of 2 to 3 percent".

"The key here is the government's seriousness and the synergy between the departments which are involved in implementing the plan," he said.

During a workshop on leaded gasoline on Tuesday, Assistant to the Coordinating Minister for the Economy Dipo Alam had said the government was not able to put the plan into effect as its budget was limited and there were no investors willing to finance the scheme.

Dipo also said the government had to prioritize other public needs such as the social safety net program.

The non-governmental organizations estimate that a nation-wide conversion from leaded to unleaded fuel would cost between US$190 million and $230 million.

Achmad Syafrudin, chairman of the Jakarta chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), also remarked that the government had not been serious about the matter.

Achmad underlined that leaded fuel was very harmful as it can cause brain damage in children and mental disorders in adults.

He further claimed that the health costs from lead emissions in Indonesia were estimated at $62.4 million per year.

He pointed out that air pollution in the capital had reached alarming levels of between 0.2 and 1.8 micrograms per cubic meter, while the World Health Organization had set a maximum limit of 0.5 micrograms per cubic meter.

Achmad also said that the NGOs had completed drafting a proposal on the banning of leaded fuel.

He claimed the proposal would soon be presented to the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources and the State Secretariat for approval to be eventually adopted as a presidential decree. (asa)