By Sunanda Creagh
JAKARTA, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Indonesia’s parliament passed a new environment bill on Tuesday giving the Environment Ministry the power to revoke polluters’ business licences, which environmentalists said could lead to more effective enforcement.
Indonesia’s rapid economic growth has been accompanied by widespread pollution of its waterways, soil and air, as well as the destruction of its forests and wildlife, prompting criticism from green groups and the World Bank.
The new law, a draft of which was seen by Reuters, will require companies whose operations impact the environment to obtain an environmental licence and undergo an environmental assessment process before starting operations.
If the terms of the environmental assessment process are breached, the Environment Ministry can revoke their permit to operate and issue fines.
Anyone who deliberately pollutes the environment could face up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to 10 billion rupiah ($1 million).
"This will affect basically all industries or companies whose activities create an impact on the environment, including manufacturing, construction, mining, pulp factories and others," said Nur Hidayati, Greenpeace’s country representative for Indonesia.
"Before, for example, if a company pollutes, the Environment Ministry could only give a recommendation and there was no enforcement in terms of the minister stopping the operation because their operation licence was held by another department," she said.
"Now it’s integrated, so if a company violates the environment, then their operation can be stopped."
The new law also stipulates sanctions for local and central government officials who issue permits without following the proper procedures. ($1 = 9,995 rupiah) (Editing by Sara Webb and Sugita Katyal)