This engaging documentary by Martin Boudot investigates the impact of the pollution of the Citarum River in Indonesia by textile factories. Is legal empowerment of the affected communities a better approach? What do you think?
Hi @deniskimathi ,
Thank you for sharing this!
Watching the documentary, multiple thoughts come to mind. First, the similarity between this and other contexts in which factories and companies continue polluting and damaging the environment, and putting people’s health, livelihoods and lives at risk. Second, I remember of the session on Legal empowerment, land rights and environmental justice that was held by Vivek Maru (@vivekmaru) in this year’s Legal Empowerment Leadership Course.
Legal empowerment can offer a pathway to strengthen the communities that are being affected by such practices, and help them, through a variety of strategies, to demand the respect and guarantee of their rights, and also shape environmental legislation in the country.
Legal empowerment as a methodology that puts affected communities at the centre. And this is a crucial element, since these communities living on the side of the Citarum river, drinking and using the polluted water in their daily lives, have not been take into account whatsoever despite being the ones that are most affected by it, and can better explain what’s happening and how it’s affecting them.
In my perspective, the case also illustrates common challenges for communities dealing with environmental harm by corporate groups and big industries:
- The imbalance of power and information (as Vivek Maru mentioned in his session)
- The corporate capture of the state (as Vivek Maru mentioned in his session): the difficulties of dealing with such matters in contexts where companies might threaten to stop investing in the country if strict measures are put in place.
- The difficulty to prove the link between pollution/harm and its impact on people’s lives and the environment.
Also, it seems to me that these situations call for:
- The three moments mentioned by Vivek Maru in his session: strengthening governance over community lands, setting terms of investment (or saying no to investment), enforcement against violations (impact-violation-remedy).
- Adopting a variety of legal empowerment strategies that can go from resorting to administrative institutions, social mobilization, advocacy, court actions, etc.
- The need for a vertical network and more active engagement with other professionals that, if willing to partake in the process, can support the efforts of the communities and help them in their fight for justice.
Thanks so much for taking the time to share your insights.