The impacts of climate change in Riau: a lawsuit to the President of RI

EoF News / 10 September 2013

EoF News (PEKANBARU) — As their villages are affected by the climate change, eight suburbans of Pelalawan district and Rohil along with Forest Rescue Network Riau (Jikalahari) and Indonesia Centre of Environmental Law (ICEL) officially lay their protest toward the President of RI, Minister of Forestry, Minister of the Environment and Riau Governor at the State Court of Central Jakarta today which is located at Gajah Mada street No 17,  Central Jakarta. 

The impacts of climate change suffered by the residents are flood which comes at least once a year, the uncertainty of planting season, difficulty for the fishermen to get fishes and the increasing number of pest that harms the agricultural production.  

The eight citizens are Nasir, Zaini Yusu, M Yusuf, Luk Priyanto, Amran, Basir ( from Pelalawan) and  Azraid and Tamidzi from Rokan Hilir. On July 20th 2013, the plaintiffs authorized the advocates integrated under the title of Riau Climate Change Advocacy Team whose office is located at Advokasi Dempo II street no 21, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta.  

“This lawsuit is called a tort lawsuitwith citizen lawsuit mechanism,” Suryadi, SH said. Citizen Lawsuit is citizen’s access to public interests including interest of the environment to file a lawsuit demanding law enforcement and to recover the loss that public have suffered.  

“The worst is that the wildfires occur every year and the smog is very unhealthy for human’s respiration. It makes it hard for us to do daily routines and work,” M Yusuf lamented, a 69 years old from Serapung village, Kuala Kampar sub-district, Pelalawan district. 

 “There’s no more forest and many of the wild animals enter the residence. We feel threatened in doing our daily activities,” Tarmidzi said, a 56 years old from Jumrah village, Rimba Melintang sub-district, Rokan Hilir.    

According to the plaintiffs, since the industrial timber companies entered the area, they have been clearing the natural forest and damaging peatlands which affect the people’s lives and livelihood. From June to August 2013, massive wildfires occurred in Riau Province, especially in the peatland area which is susceptible to fire. Fire burned all the leaves, bushes, dry trees and thick smog damages the residents’ eyesight and respiration. The wildfires turn everybody living near the hotspot ares in panic and worried.

“Because of that, goverment as the state administrators should play its role and function in managing, regulating and enforcing the law toward everyone acting against it,” said Muslim.

According to Jikalahari and ICEL, there has been an environmental damage in the peatlands and protection forest due to the natural forest conversion and the transformation of peatland areas into big scale monocultural plantations like palm oil and industrial timber plantations by slash-and-burn land clearance.

In addition to that, Riau has been living with its highest temperature of 37 celcius degrees for 30 years. “It’s all because of the massive wildfires,” Muslim Rasyid added, Jikalahari coordinator. One of the lawsuit’s basis is the Decision of Chief Justice of RI No. 36/KMA/SK/II/2013 in which citizen lawsuit/ Actio Popularis is one of the approved rights to file a lawsuit.

According to Suryadi,  the defendants have been negligent and irresponsible in carrying out their duties which contribute to bring global warming effects and climate change to the province. “It has caused material and immaterial loss to the whole citizens of Riau province who are affected by the climate change. The President of RI is also responsible for what Minister of Forestry along with Minister of the Environment and Riau Governor have done by the gratuitous licensing,” Suryadi said. 

The defendants—President of RI, MoF, Minister of the Environment and Riau Governor—are pointed to having conducted unlawful acts by issuing licenses for industrial timber plantation companies (IUPHHK-HT) on natural forest and peatland areas. 

The eight residents  demand that the Judge Panels should postpone the enactment of IUPHHK-HT on  peatland areas, perform rearrangement of IUPHHK-HT and conduct an inventory of the greenhouse emission in Riau Province, and form Minister Regulations as mandated in President Regulations of GRK Inventories.