While the court made individual findings against ministers and governors and ordered them to take further measures to mitigate air pollution, Joko was singled out in the verdict because he was responsible for monitoring the work of his cabinet.
After the hearing Ayu said Joko was “the primary party responsible in the carrying out of the regulations, so the President contributes to the uncontrollable air pollution”.
Jakarta was rated by air quality index monitor IQAir as the world’s most polluted city in the lead-up to the case being filed in 2019.
Its air quality index reading reached as high 240 that year, well into the “very unhealthy” range which warns the entire population is more than likely to be affected.
Conditions have improved since then, aided by curbs imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jakarta’s most recent score of 82 leaves it as the 17th worst globally on a list that ranks Lima, Peru as having the lowest air quality and includes the likes of Johannesburg, Karachi and Wuhan in the “top five”.
The 32 plaintiffs were not seeking a financial payout but took legal action hoping a judgment in their favour would find governments had acted insufficiently to control air pollution and force leaders into taking more substantive action.
One of them, Istu Prayogi, reported he had been told by his doctor to wear a mask wherever he went after the discovery of spots in his lungs after 30 years working in the outskirts of Jakarta.
The verdict quoted from witnesses who claimed that Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan never seriously sanctioned companies who contributed to air pollution in the capital and his administration did not introduce enough air quality index stations in the city.
Hearings were held from January to May last year, with witnesses appearing for both sides, but the outcome was delayed by the spread of the virus, which the presiding judge himself caught.
The verdict was then postponed eight times over the past four months before a result was finally announced on Thursday.
The defendants have 14 days to appeal.
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