Solve pollution. Save lives. Protect the planet.

July 17, 2023

Budi Susilorini, Pure Earth’s Country Director for Indonesia, answers 5 questions to give you  insight into her work, and the progress her team has made. 

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The core of our Pure Earth Indonesia Team: (l to r) Vedila, Nickolaus, and Budi.


1) How did you become a specialist in your field?

Before joining Pure Earth, from my previous two jobs, I learned about mercury used in artisanal and small-scale gold mining and its impact on the environment and health. Seeing the magnitude of the impact, the limited knowledge of stakeholders about it, and the opportunity to work directly with the community, I was motivated to share the knowledge I have. Pure Earth gave me the opportunity to learn more about toxic pollution from both experts and field visits to find out about real problems on the ground.

2) Tell us about the Pure Earth Indonesia team

I have been working at Pure Earth since the end of 2018 in a small team, which in the future will further develop according to the needs of the program. I am currently working with program officer Nickolaus Hariojati, who has worked at Pure Earth for more than nine years and has played a key technical role. Meanwhile, the day-to-day management of the office is the responsibility of finance and administration officer Vedila Rahmi Anantisa, who does not hesitate to go into the field with us to implement programs. In addition, we have two senior advisers, namely Prof. Dr. Nila D.F.A. Moeloek, Sp.M (K) and Dra. Masnellyarti Hilman, M.Sc., who have excellent understanding and experience in the fields of health and the environment.

In carrying out our program, we not only cooperate with the government at the central and regional levels, but we also work with national and regional institutions to mutually strengthen each other and share benefits. They include Yayasan Tambuhak Sinta, Komite Penghapusan Bensin Bertimbel, the Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology, the Faculty of Medicine of University of Indonesia, and the Health Polytechnic of Ministry of Health of Yogyakarta.

3) What is the focus of your team’s work, and what is your biggest challenge?

Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is rife in Indonesia, and mercury is still commonly used in gold extraction. In addition, the data shows that lead pollution in the environment has already had an impact on public health in Indonesia and requires serious and immediate actions. Therefore, the program from the Pure Earth Indonesia Foundation is focused on providing the support needed by the government and the people of Indonesia to control the impact of mercury and lead contamination, especially on children.

The biggest challenge for us is knowing what is actually needed by stakeholders in Indonesia as they have different levels of understanding about the problem of heavy metals, their impacts, and the need for handling them. It becomes more challenging if there is a change in the institutional stakeholders who become our partners, or if there is a policy change that requires us to repeat or make significant adjustments. Another challenge that is often encountered in the field is that most of the actors working in used lead-acid battery (ULAB) recycling and in the ASGM sector do their work informally. Thus, it makes the issues quite sensitive and requires a different approach for each sector and each region.

4) Can you tell me about a project or person that has made an impact on you?

I find it difficult to mention just a person or an incident because the thing that makes me love my job and makes me passionate about the work we do is the opportunity to meet and interact with the people in the places where we work. Their longing for a decent life and simplicity within all the limitations they have makes me feel that what I do for them has meaning. This is my main motivation: to keep trying, to help them work safely, and make sure the impact on the environment and health is minimal.

5)  What is your vision for your team’s work in your country?

We hope that the government and the community will better understand the interrelationships between the environment, health and economic aspects. Thus together, the government, non-governmental institutions, and the community can plan strategies and programs that not only have minimal impact on the environment and health, but also bring benefits economically.

Highlights of Projects in Indonesia

Identifying Toxic Sites, Sources of Exposure, and Lead Poisoning

We continue to strive to provide scientific data to the Government of Indonesia to help them in planning policies and programs. Our  Toxic Sites Identification Program  provides information on lead contaminated communities; our Rapid Market Screenings (RMS) project is providing new insights into sources of lead exposure from consumer products; and our blood lead level studies in four locations on Java Island will help determine the prevalence of lead in blood in affected locations. We hope that the results of this study can be used not only by Pure Earth Indonesia, but also by the central and regional governments to advocate the importance of addressing lead issues.

Of particular note is the data from the RMS project, which seems to show that lead contamination does not only come from industries related to ULAB (used lead-acid battery recycling), but also from consumer products people buy and use every day from their local markets. Low exposure that occurs repeatedly has the potential to threaten public health. Our efforts to share the preliminary data with the Government of Indonesia have received positive responses and we do hope that the Government of Indonesia will take necessary actions to mitigate the impact of lead on health on a larger scale.


The Ministry of Environment and Forestry already has a database of hazardous waste contaminated sites, and a national priority list for remediation of hazardous waste contaminated sites from non-institutional activities. Regional governments are being encouraged to take initiative to remediate these polluted sites. Pure Earth Indonesia provides support to the national and sub-national governments in the implementation of these programs.

Together with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, the Environmental Agency of Bogor Regency, and Komite Penghapusan Bensin Bertimbel, we pioneered the remediation of lead contaminated land in Cinangka Village, Bogor Regency. In addition, Pesarean, a village in the Tegal Regency, which was contaminated with dangerous levels of lead from years of informal car battery recycling, has been cleaned up by the government following initial work by Pure Earth Indonesia to identify the problem and develop remediation plans and options for the government.

Health and Pollution Action Plan

With support from the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP), Pure Earth Indonesia and Yayasan Tambuhak Sinta have been providing technical support to the Provincial Government of Central Kalimantan to produce a Health and Pollution Action Plan, which was adopted in the Middle Term Development Plan of Central Kalimantan Province in 2021. Currently it is in the process of being implemented in Katingan and Gunung Mas Regencies.

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