The Bulletin of the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law



Greeting! This bulletin comes you from Jakarta, bringing you updates about ICEL's work: environmental prosecutions, crafting new and better green laws and legislation, collecting comprehen- sive info on sustainable development in Indonesia, and keeping an eye on all things green.

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Current court and advocacy cases


The residents of a housing development at Ciledug Indah in West Java hear a deafening noise like amplified crickets day and night.It is not the sound of insects, however, but of 500.000 volts of electricity directly overhead. Many of the residents experience itches, nausea and dizziness which they attribute to the blasts of high-voltage electricity which they live amongst.

A decade ago a developer obtained a permit from the local govern- ment to build this housing development at Ciledug Indah. Eight years later, the Public Works Department in the Central Govern- ment in Jakarta - who, contrary to the local government's deci- sion to zone the area for housing, had already classified the area as a green belt to remain free of housing development - decided to grant a permit to a separate company to build several kilometres of high-voltage electricity cables over the roofs of the housing development.

The residents, uneasy about the development from the beginning, eventually formed a committee to challenge the permit to build the cables, which were intended to provide domestic electricity. As victims of two conflicting government decisions, they demanded to be relocated from the site and to be given compensation for the move. The Public Works Department made a commitment in to a representative of the Ciledug community in November 1994 to rectify the conflict. This was the first time in Indonesia that a government agency has actually recognized there may be problems combining living areas with high-voltage powerlines.

This is not due to a lack of protest from community groups. In fact, the residents of Ciledug Indah are one of seven groups - altogether representing possibly a million people - taking action across Indonesia because they are forced to live in areas of high electro-magnetic fields. The first health impact most of these people note is not the electricity itself but the intrusion of the electricity hardware, the towers, cables, and isolators, which frequently explode, causing cuts and burns.

The other health impacts of electro-magnetic radiation are more controversial - whether these be from television sets, hair- dryers, or high-voltage powerlines. Residents such as those at Ciledug can argue their day-to-day experience of the stench and the screech of the cables. They are aware of the high incidence of rashes, headaches and nausea. A doctor in the Ciledug area, Moch Taufik, says he has proscribed numerous residents headache medicine usually given for treatment of extreme stress.

But around the world studies into the effects of electro-magnetic radiation have difficulty proving a direct clinical connection between the radiation and health problems. A study in Sweden conducted on the health over a 25 year period of 500,000 peoples living within 300 yards of high-voltage powerlines - like the one at Ciledug. The study found that amongst the sample group there were 142 cases of child cancer, way above average for Switzer- land. Additionally, it found that the risk of child leukemia increased in direct proportion to the strength of the electro- magentic fields, making it difficult to argue that any other factors were the cause of the high child-cancer outcome. (Feycht- ing & Ahlholm, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm). The second Swedish study focussed on 1,632 workmen experiencing on-the-job exposure to electro-magnetic fields, 511 of whom had contracted leukemia or brain tumours. Taking into account other environmen- tal factors which may have caused this high cancer rate, the researchers still concluded that more of the leukemia patients had occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields.

ICEL is using studies such as this, and similar studies around the world, to argue for the precautionary principle to be ac- knowledged in decisions to build new high-voltage electrical facilities. ICEL has initiated a Powerlines Impact Consortium, involving many groups throughout Indonesia, in order to thorough- ly research, campaign and advocate to the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and the Indonesian Human Rights Commission. To- gether with LBH (the Legal Aid Foundation) ICEL has compiled a report containing Indonesian case-studies and international research. This has been presented to the Indonesian Human Rights Commission with firm recommendations for action and to all the stakeholders (particularly the effected communities) in three conflicts over the impact of electro-magnetic powerlines.

The recommendations include a) compulsory environmental impact studies, b) comprehensive national research on the impact of powerlines, c) moving and compensating effected populations d) and clear zoning laws so that the predicament of Ciledug is not repeated.

ICEL 12th April 1996


Explaining new environmental laws and regulations


This regulation aims to regulate seed production, and to define the intellectual property rights with regard to genetic resources in Indonesian seeds. The preamble names one of the legislative objectives as to sustain and improve the production quality and quantity of crops. Another objective is the preservation and conservation of the genetic resources within plant populations.

To this end, Chapter 2, Article 3 of the legislation gives the national government of Indonesia the authority to use and manage genetic resources. The legislation covers all seeds indigenous to Indonesia. Gene-stock is regarded here as a natural resource, making it the clear responsibility of the national government to identify, collect and conserve it. If an Indonesian citizen or legal entity withes to identify, collect, or conserve genetic resources they must first obtain a permit from the Minister for Agriculture.

In a later Article the government commits itself to establishing a comprehensive gene bank for Indonesian seeds.

Article 8 allows the government to carry out genetic doubling in cases where the species is endangered. The legislation requires that this occurs in areas with similar agro climates. It further requires that the doubling is carried simultaneously in many regions at once to anticipate the possibility of some failures.

Art 14 states details the circumstances under which indigenous Indonesian gene-stock may be exported. Export is only allowed for research purposes and the Minister must screen all proposed exports.

ICEL 12th April 1996



"Planning" in the Bopuncur Region

As the wet season to a close and residents of Jakarta reflect on the disastrous and expensive floods of December and January, a vast area to the South and West of Jakarta city has become the subject of close attention. The region known as Bopuncur - Bogor, Puncak and Cianjur - once absorbed and purified the wet season's heavy rains. As the catchment area for Jakarta, it once served to absorb and purify much of the water which these days heads straight into the roads and rooms of Jakarta.

People are asking why Bopuncur now fails to fulfill this import- ant ecological function. On March 13th 1996 the Minister for Planning - acknowledging that houses, roads, and tourist develop- ments had been springing up rapidly in the region without clear planning - instigated a team to investigate the special planning and uses of the area.


Presently the planning rules for the elevated catchment around Jakarta are covered by twelve different institutions. These include national government Departments and Local Governors and institutions. As a result, the central government has issued three decrees to try and co-ordinate the planning of the area.

Three central government decrees (Presidential Decrees, No. 48 of 1983 and No. 79 of 1985, and Home Affairs Ministerial Decision No. 22 of 1989) attempt to rope in all of the different authori- ties. Unfortunately these decrees contain no prohibitions, no control mechanisms, and no sanctions. Thus these central govern- ment decrees merely add new confusion to the mish-mash of author- ities responsible.

For example the Decree of 1985 on Global Planning on the Puncak Spatial area gives overall authority to the National Planning and Development Board. Meanwhile the combined local governments in the region promulgated the Puncak Spatial Planning in Local Government Regulation.

In actuality, local governments make most of the planning deci- sions for Bopuncur. While sustainable planning principles are included in national planning regulations, they are not included in local government regulations, due to a lack of knowledge or to a lack of courage. Thus local development licenses fail to in- clude requirements about land and water conservation of any type. The regulations are not provide transparent and do not include processes for public participation.

In ICEL's view the laws, regulations, and institutions covering the region need to be simplified, clarified and made enforceable. There should be one or two national Department responsible for licensing development of the area. The new team established to review planning in the region must take into account sustainable development and incorporate detailed processes for public partic- ipation. Otherwise the chaotic development in the Bopuncur region will continue to threaten the quality of life for - and indeed threaten the lives of - the eight million residents of Jakarta.

ICEL 12th April 1996

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