The Environment and Indonesia

mini-gunung-haliman-np.jpgFor centuries, the rich natural resources of the Indonesian archipelago have been exploited. During colonial rule and the Soeharto years, Indonesians had little say about how the assets of this great nation were managed. Today the nation’s ecological health is hanging in the balance. Environmental problems abound throughout the country. Air quality is rapidly diminishing in the big cities, clean water is becoming scarce, coastal areas are being eroded and natural forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. Legislators recognized the need for action years ago and environmental laws have been on the statute books for some years. There has been limited enforcement and the authorities have often turned a blind eye to environmental crimes.

Conservation groups are satisfied with the quality of the country’s environmental legislation, but they complain it is not effective enough in actually protecting nature.

Some large companies have woken up to the problem too. Although they are few and far between, a scattering of commercial ventures introducing responsible environmental practices has emerged.

Shortly before the Bali climate conference, the Indonesian paper and pulp giant, APRIL, was invited to join the World Business Council for Sustainable Development in recognition of its advanced environmental management systems.

An announcement was recently made about the formation of an Indonesian Business Council for Sustainable Development.

With the world’s ecologists now even more focused on Indonesia following the climate conference, it is inevitable the government will be taking its environmental obligations more seriously.

As big business faces international pressure to adopt more sustainable practices, we will see Indonesian companies acting more dutifully in the years to come.

So we are beginning to see both the government and the private sector recognizing its responsibilities to Indonesia’s fragile environment.

They must do much more, of course, and new initiatives must be introduced with more urgency; but the signs are positive and we should see this as good news.

But is the average Indonesian doing anything to conserve the environment?

There is little evidence ordinary citizens are doing much when it comes to greening their behavior.

Maybe people are not yet aware of the threats to Indonesia’s environment or maybe they don’t think they can do anything to help solve the crisis.

For Indonesia to overcome its growing environmental challenges, it will take more than just the government and business sectors to fix the problems.

The days of colonial masters and dictatorships are over. Now individuals can make a huge difference. We can all help to save the planet. The government and businesses need our help.

The time is ripe for Indonesians to take control of their own destiny. It’s high time for Indonesians to wake up and take some responsibility for the future well-being of this great nation. Ordinary families can take steps to reduce the burden on the country’s over-stretched resources while saving money in the process.

Over the coming weeks, Green-Watch will explore some practical initiatives that households can adopt to help protect our environment.

Here are an initial 12 green steps for the household:

1. Switch off electrical appliances when not in use, and if not being used for some time, items should be unplugged.

2. Keep air conditioning at a reasonable level. Consider slightly raising the temperature. Try using ceiling fans wherever possible and avoid keeping air conditioning running in unoccupied rooms.

3. Replace your light bulbs with new compound fluorescents which consume a quarter of the energy. They may be hard to find, but they are becoming increasingly popular and are well worth the search.

4. Try to reduce household waste produced by day to day living and explore ways of recycling wherever possible. Avoid using disposable products and switch to reusable items.

5. Air dry your dishes. Stop the dishwasher before the dryer cycle starts and leave the door slightly open. The machine’s drying cycle consumes a huge amount of energy.

6. Update your refrigerator. Fridges are the most energy intensive household appliance. This means that a poorly maintained and energy inefficient fridge is costing you money, as well as adding its burden to the atmosphere. Modern fridges use 40 percent less energy than fridges produced 10 years ago.

7. Take showers, not baths. Showers use less water. Don’t forget to install an efficient showerhead.

8. Use phosphate-free soaps and detergents. Wash clothes in cold water when possible.

9. Install low-flush toilets in your home. They use 6 liters per flush instead of 13 liters.

10. Use recycled paper in your home office and printer. Double side your printing and use scrap paper for writing notes rather than throwing it away.

11. Consider buying a more fuel efficient car. Choose a compact car over an SUV. SUVs burn almost twice the amount of gas as a station wagon and don’t carry any more passengers.

12. Dispose of workshop items with care. Old paints, oils and pesticides, for example, should not be tipped down the drain as the residue ends up in our waterways.

Jonathan Wootliff is an independent sustainable development consultant specializing in building productive relationships between companies and NGOs. He can be contacted at