On the International Human Rights Day, members of the Rural Youth and Land Rights Initiative wrote a blog on the human right to a healthy environment. In Indonesia, one's right to living space is increasingly threatened due to businesses making inroads into people's territories.
The relationship between humans and the environment is inevitable, but we also need to be aware that human beings are not superior to the environment. Such superiority could create an impression allowing humans to rape the environment for the sake of satisfaction, eventually leading them to rob the living space. The Indonesian Law protects, respects and fulfills the people's rights to environment, education, food, health, and safety. However, violations of rights to the environment are still occurring until this day, creating a great threat to human civilization.
Environmental Protection and Management Act No. 32 of 2009 states that "A fine and healthy environment is the basic right of every Indonesian citizen, as mandated in Article 28H of the Republic Indonesia 1945 Constitution;". Yet ironically, environmental damages in Indonesia, which are always seen as a “natural event”, are actually the result of systematic damages that can be prevented beforehand. Take an example on landslide; deforestation is one of the causes of the continuity of the decrease of trees. Another example is floods caused by infrastructure projects that are blocking the sewers from doing its job and thus, creating subsidence (3 – 18 cm per year if we’re talking about Jakarta). These are just a few examples of "natural" disasters. Imagine how many others that are not exposed in the media, are caused by human.
Investment and infrastructure projects have been one of the forces taking people's living space. In 2016 nine female farmers in Kendeng, Central Java raised their protest to oppose the construction of a cement factory by PT Semen Indonesia near their villages, due to the potential environmental degradation caused by the project. This location was particularly rich with natural resources, including a spring that had been a great provider for the local communities there. Droughts and natural resources degradation were ultimately experienced by the locals. Land grabs often occured for the sake of infrastructure development.
Emil Salim, a senior Indonesian economist and former politician once said, "Politicians are taken hostage by big business owners". In a discussion that took place in Jakarta on December 3, 2019, he explained a fact that investors are using politicians as their "hands" to seize people's land and natural resources.
The struggle of Kendeng women to sustain the environment in their living space has proven how humans and the environment are inseparable. Environmental degradation in Kendeng was actually a problem that could have been prevented because they were not so-called “natural disasters”. Protecting the right to a healthy environment and living space means sustaining the human right to live. Violating the rights of environment and living space means violating the rights of humanity to live. It is important to hear directly from those who have experienced these violations first-hand. When women are allowed to participate, they will be able to decide on the things that can affect them to ensure a sustainable environment to live in; not just for themselves, but for the wider community.
Originally written by RMI - The Indonesian Institute for Forest and Environment and edited by ILC Asia.