Jakarta Post | 27 June 2008
RI warned of toxic waste from Japan
Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Nusa Dua, Bali
Environmental groups have warned that Japan could "dispose waste" in Indonesia under an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) the countries signed last year.
"What we see in the agreement is they include lists of toxic waste that are considered goods or commodities. It will justify the influx of hazardous waste from Japan to Indonesia," Basel Action Network (BAN) director for the Asia Pacific region Richard Guitierrez told reporters during the Ninth Meeting of Parties to the Basel Convention here Thursday.
Among the hazardous wastes categorized as goods are residual products, sewage sludge, medical waste, waste from chemical or allied industries, vessels, incinerator ash and uranium enriched in U235.
"They also include other banned substances such as chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), oil-contaminated products and nuclear waste," Guitierrez said.
The EPA was signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and then Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe in 2007, allowing for the reduction of tariff barriers for hundreds of goods from the two countries.
Guitierrez said the agreement would mostly favor Japan as the country was facing problems with the increasing volume of its domestic toxic waste.
"It would also benefit Japan’s investment in Indonesia as they would, for example, build fertilizer companies utilizing incinerator ash as ingredients and Indonesia probably may not be able to reject it although it is hazardous waste," he said.
"If Indonesia rejects the companies, Japan could demand the country pay for damages to its investments. It will be the other consequence of this agreement."
Japan is among rich nations rejecting the ban amendment under the Basel Convention, which is currently being discussed. The amendment, which has been ratified by Indonesia, aims to totally ban the import and export of hazardous waste to protect the environment and save public health.
Environmental group Balifokus director Yuyuin Yunia Ismawa urged the government to review the partnership agreement to protect the country from becoming a dumping ground for toxic waste.
"The government must involve the environment and health ministries to discuss problems with the agreement. It must be reviewed if we want to protect the country," she said.
Guitierrez said the issue has grown bigger since Japan signed similar agreements with 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in April 2008.
"Under Japan’s vision, East and South Asian developing countries are in danger of being used as its repository for its increasing volumes of toxic waste," he said.
"With the agreement, ASEAN countries could not say the region is going to prohibit the imported toxic waste, including for environmental reasons."
He said if Japan succeeded in dumping its waste in the region through economic agreements, other countries — including the United States and Australia — were likely to demand Indonesia and others in the region open their land as a toxic waste dumping ground.
Indonesian delegation chief Agus Purnomo said the environment ministry was not intensively involved in discussions to draft the EPA with Japan.
"We did not see the detail of lists of goods and commodities in the agreement yet. We will check lists showing the possibility of toxic waste sent from Japan," he said.