Hari Bumi Earth Day 2020

Joint Press Statement



Earth Day Commemoration:

Relying on Water Right Protection as Part of Climate Action


Today, Wednesday, April 22, 2020, is the commemoration of the 50th Earth Day with the theme “Climate Action”. Big challenges, but also big opportunities, the action of climate change have distinguished this issue from being the most urging topic for the 50-year celebration. Taking into account that the climate change is the greatest challenge to the future of human and the system of life support that make our world habitable.

The government of Indonesia, is one of the countries which has a great commitment to Climate Action, which is reducing greenhouse gas emissions up to 29 percent of the emissions which will be generated if there will be no changes made in 2030. Meanwhile, geographically, Indonesia is a country with a high intensity of disasters caused by various causes, including forest and land fires, floods, landslides, and so forth. One of the climate problem sources is pollution of rivers and other water sources.

Watersheds (DAS) provide various functions (ecological, social, cultural, and economic) to support human life. Watershed management failure causes the loss of one or more watershed functions and results in disasters for humans.

ECOTON, Gemawan and ELSAM in 2019 conducted a research on two watersheds (Pawan and Sambas) in West Kalimantan which were affected by oil palm plantations in West Kalimantan. The results of this study show the failure of the Government in managing watersheds, they are:

  1. The Loss of Community Clean Water Sources. Before the plantation went in, the community used rivers as the sources of clean water (drinking, bathing, washing, and toilet water). The coming of the plantations caused the rivers not being able to be used as the sources of clean water. In tributaries, pollution was more noticeable during the rainy season due to contamination from fertilizers and pesticides accumulated in the canals and the tributaries. Itching when bathing in the river water became daily experience for the users of the river water. The loss of clean water sources due to pollution was not accompanied by compensation for the provision of clean water to the society.
  2. The monitoring results showed that the measured free chlorine parameters in the river exceeded the PP No. 82/2001 with an average of 0.05 mg / L in Sambas River and 0.033 mg / L in Pawan River. The concentrations of free chlorine measured in oil palm canals ranged from 0-3.61 mg / L with an average of 0.36 mg / L. The source of chlorine pollution came from fertilizers and pesticides which contain chlorine. During the monitoring, violations were also found in the mill waste disposal by pumping the waste straight from the liquid waste management pond and to the rivers. The test of waste samples flowed into the canals showed a violation of the quality standards of wastewater disposal in the BOD and COD parameters.
  3. Decreasing Fish Diversity and The changes of flow (eg construction of DAMs/floodgates) and the clearing of riparian vegetations in tributaries which functioned as irrigation canals causing fish to lose their habitat for spawning/laying eggs, finding food, and taking shelter from currents during floods. High concentrations of free chlorine were also thought to have contributed to the pressure on river fish populations, because chlorine causes damage to gills and death of young fish. In July 2019, there were mass fish deaths in the upper part of Sambas River and until today the source of the pollution has not been identified. The decline in fish populations is in line with the decline in the result of fishermen’s catch. A fisherman mentioned that prior to the plantation, they got 10-20 kg of fish/ilar (fishing gear) and now only get 1-2 kg of fish/ilar installed.
  4. The Use of Prohibited In practice, the use of paraquat is still happening on the plantations. This was found in both the RSPO and ISPO plantations. From the identification of the pesticides used, 4 out of 5 pesticides included highly hazardous pesticides (HHP) with characteristics: causing eye damage, skin irritation and respiratory tract, disturbing fetal growth and fertility, causing organ damage, toxic to aquatic life and birds. Therefore, its use and management of waste have to be done carefully. In fact, careless pesticide container disposal was still found on the plantations and there were still pray workers who did not use complete PPE.
  5. Unavailability of Waste Management Facilities and Infrastructure. The community threw and/burnt garbage into the river because there were no waste management facilities (including trash cans and transportation to the final waste disposal/TPA).


Cardiff University’s Water Research Institute and the University of Vermont last year found the results of their recent study that the improvement of water quality can reduce the ecological impact of climate change on rivers. On a more positive note, efforts to improve water quality, such as improved wastewater treatment and stricter regulation, can potentially counteract some effects of climate warming. At this point, it is very important for the country to pay attention again to the issue of river cleanliness and other water sources.

This is important for the Government to notice and implement, because the 1945 Constitution in Article 28A emphasizes that everyone has the right to live and defend his life. Then Article 28H paragraph (1) states that everyone has the right to be physically and mentally prosperous and receive a good and healthy living environment. Furthermore, the right to water is part of the fulfillment and protection of the right to life since water is the most important component to fulfill and protect the right to life which is an absolute and non-derogable right. Moreover, General Comment No. 15 regarding The Right To Water (arts. 11 and 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) emphasizes that the right to water provides everyone the right to adequate, safe, acceptable, physically accessible, and easily available water for both personal and domestic uses. Adequate amount of clean water is needed to prevent death from dehydration, to reduce the risk of water-related diseases, and to be used for consumption, cooking, and personal as well as domestic hygienic needs.

The current ‘Outbreak’ of Covid-19 ‘Outbreak’ has made the community, especially women and children, very vulnerable due to the loss of access to clean and healthy water sources, exposure to toxins/poisons during work, and constant contact with polluted water.

Due to the aforementioned matters above, we urge:

  1. Indonesian government to continue having the commitment on the fulfillment and protection of water rights for all Indonesian citizens (WNI) without any exception, as well as implement Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals, namely “ensuring the sustainable availability and management of clean water and sanitation for all”;
  2. Indonesian government to be serious about implementing climate action by setting a common vision, overcoming overlapping policies among institutions, and monitoring progress in implementing climate action with a measurable methodology;
  3. Indonesian government or related local governments to set regulations related to the management of pollution originating from the irrigation canals of oil palm plantations before being discharged/channeled straight into the rivers; through the implementation of monitoring and evaluation involving the community; identify sources of pollution and enforce laws against companies/plantations that provide a deterrent effect; provide waste management facilities and infrastructure; provide a source of clean and healthy water for the community.
  4. Indonesian government to strictly enforces the law to impose sanctions for companies proven to have polluted watersheds;
  5. Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to educate/socialize the member companies and the public regarding procedures of reporting/complaints of violations on the principles and criteria of sustainable certification, clean water sources for communities around oil palm plantations and workers’ rights;
  6. Oil palm plantation companies to: (1) restore the flow of tributaries into their natural form so that they become adequate habitats for fish breeding; (2) provide complete PPE and supervise the practice of nutrient management and pest control in the field; restocking the original river fish to help restore the river fish population


Surabaya – Pontianak – Jakarta, 22 April 2020



For further information, please contact Riska Darmawanti (ECOTON), mobile phone081252031456; Uray Endang Kusuma (GEMAWAN), mobile phone: 08125582004; Andi Muttaqien (ELSAM), mobile phone: 08121996984

Joint Press Statement – 2020 Earth Day Commemoration: Relying on Water Right Protection as Part of Climate Action
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