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Indonesia: Environmental Bill Would Strengthen Ministry’s Powers

(Sept. 3, 2009) A meeting was held in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, on August 26, 2009, to draft a bill to revise the Environmental Law of 1999. The participants included both legislators from the House of Representatives' commission on the environment and officials from the Home Ministry and from the Office of the State Minister of the Environment (the Ministry), in addition to environmentalists. Initial discussions were held in 2008, and work has intensified in the last two months. Ilvas Asaad, Deputy Minister for Environmental Compliance, commented on the progress, stating, “[w]e are optimistic the bill can be passed before the House finishes its term in September.” (Adianto P. Simamora, Environment Bill Likely to Empower Ministry, JAKARTA POST, Aug. 27, 2009, available at

The purpose of the bill is in part to give more authority to the Ministry, including the power to arrest and detain polluters. According to legislator Sonny Keraf, environmental protection can only be accomplished by giving more power to the Ministry. Current law only allows civilian investigators like those on the Ministry's staff to seek explanations and evidence in connection with violations of environmental law. Suspected violations then have to be reported to the police before action can be taken. In addition, the bill states the Ministry will be able to terminate business permits for companies that do not obtain the proper environmental permits. The bill would allow local officials such as mayors and governors to issue new environmental licenses, with the level of official authorization needed dependent on the size and scope of the business. (Id.)

Those found to be illegally harming the environment, if convicted, at present face a maximum of 10 years in prison and/or a fine of Rp500 million (about US$49,750). Article 99 of the draft bill would increase penalties for polluting air or water to a maximum of 12 years of imprisonment and/or a fine of Rp10 billion (about US$995,000). Under article 105, importing hazardous waste could result in a 12-year term of imprisonment and a fine of Rp12 billion (about US$1,194 million). (Id.)