New environment minister on the warpath
New Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya has hit the ground running with a pledge to resolve cases against seven companies accused of environmental damage and to take action against three more.
“In the first 100 days of my term in office, I will ensure that those 10 companies have been brought to court,” he said on the sidelines of the National Climate Change Summit in Sanur, Bali, on Tuesday.
The minister declined to identify the companies but said that they were from a group of 92 that, for the past two years running, had received the worst possible rating in a ministry-run environmental assessment known as the Proper Index.
Kambuaya’s predecessor, Gusti Muhammad Hatta, had said in July that the ministry planned to take seven polluting companies to court later this year — two miners and five fish farms.
The Proper Index assigns color codes to companies based on their environmental credentials, with black the worst polluters and gold the most minor. While the index serves to name and shame polluting companies, it does not prescribe punishments for offenders or require them to clean up their act.
Kambuaya said the 2011 index, which listing 680 companies, would be published next month. He added that the index would be expanded next year to include around 1,000 companies.
“I hope that the number of companies with a black rating goes down next year,” he said.
In July, Gusti said his office had successfully taken two black-rated companies to court and won damages amounting to Rp 120 billion ($13.6 million).
He said the money would be given to the affected communities in the form of funding for environmental restoration projects.
Gusti said at the time that more stringent law enforcement was needed to crack down on pollution, given that many polluting companies felt it was sufficient just to just pay the required fines and keep operating as usual.
“They seem to believe that by paying the fine, the entire problem goes away just like that,” the then-minister said.