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Jakarta tops the list as the most polluted city in the world

Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, now ranks as the world’s most polluted city. Chronic traffic congestion, industrial emissions, and coal-fired power plants contribute to the crisis. Chronic diseases linked to pollution, like COPD and asthma, are on the rise.

President Jokowi suggests solutions include the development of a new capital and promoting electric vehicles.



INDONESIA: Indonesia’s capital city, Jakarta, has taken the unenviable first-place position as the world’s most polluted city, according to data released on earlier in the month.

The city has consistently ranked among the top 10 most polluted cities globally since May, as reported by Swiss air quality technology company, IQAir.

With a population of over 10 million people, Jakarta has been grappling with unhealthy air quality levels almost daily, as cited from IQAir by Channel News Asia last Friday (11 Aug).

The city’s air quality woes have largely been attributed to chronic traffic congestion, industrial emissions, and coal-fired power plants.

In fact, some residents went as far as launching and winning a civil lawsuit in 2021, urging the government to take action to control air pollution.

Nathan Roestandy, co-founder of the Indonesian air quality app Nafas Indonesia, warned about the dire consequences of continuous pollution exposure.

“We breathe over 20,000 times a day. Inhaling polluted air every day can lead to respiratory diseases, lung issues, and even asthma. This can affect children’s cognitive development and mental health,” he stressed.

Addressing this concern, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) mentioned that one of the solutions is the ongoing development of a new capital city in Nusantara (IKN), which is planned to be completed next year on Kalimantan Island.

He emphasized that the move aims to relieve the burden on Jakarta and shift some of its functions to the new capital.

President Jokowi also highlighted the importance of mass transportation systems, such as MRT, LRT, and high-speed trains, in reducing pollution. He underlined the promotion of electric vehicles as a crucial step in the right direction.

However, the battle against air pollution remains an uphill struggle. Ngabila Salama, head of Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Immunization at Jakarta’s Health Department, revealed that various respiratory illnesses have become more prevalent due to pollution.

On average, around 100,000 citizens of the capital are recorded to suffer from acute respiratory infections (ARI) monthly. These effects are compounded during seasonal changes.

Illustration: Traffic in Jakarta.

“The impact of air pollution tends to lead to chronic diseases or non-communicable conditions such as lung inflammation, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), asthma, and circulatory ailments like hypertension and heart diseases,” Ngabila stated in a brief message on Friday (11 Aug).

In response, Ngabila advised the public to take preventive measures, including wearing masks when outdoors and maintaining a healthy lifestyle to boost immunity.

Separately, the Head of the Jakarta Environmental Agency (DLH), Asep Kunto, noted that air quality in Jakarta throughout 2023 has been quite fluctuating.

According to Asep, one of the factors is weather transition. “One of the triggering factors is the dry season condition, which usually peaks from July to September, resulting in poor air quality,” explained Asep to journalists last Friday.

Asep further explained that the Jakarta Provincial Government is currently drafting regulations.

One existing regulation is Governor’s Instruction Number 66 of 2019 on air quality control.

“So, there are three strategies: managing air pollution through various policies and regulations, reducing air pollution emissions, and possibly addressing public transportation issues through the Transportation Agency,” Asep elaborated.

Meanwhile, Ardhasena Sopaheluwakan, the Acting Deputy for Climatology at BMKG, stated that air quality tends to improve during the dry season. He mentioned this phenomenon has occurred in previous years as well.

Additionally, another phenomenon during the dry season is the inversion layer in urban areas. He explained that this phenomenon leads to cooler air in the lower layers.

“This prevents air from rising, and this inversion explains why the air looks clearer below compared to above in Jakarta, where our urban living takes place,” he stated.

Meanwhile, the Acting Governor of Jakarta, Heru Budi Hartono, does not deny the poor air quality in the capital. He mentioned that despite industrial activities shifting out of the city, Jakarta still can’t handle air pollution alone.

“Actually, Jakarta is already related to industries moving out of the city. But there are still causes of air pollution from both two-wheeled and four-wheeled motor vehicles,” Heru said during an online discussion on Forum Merdeka Barat 9 (FMB9) last Tuesday (8 Aug).

Heru explained that there has been an increase in the number of vehicles, both two-wheelers and four-wheelers, entering Jakarta in the last two years. Heru stated that this has contributed to the air pollution in the capital.

Photo: The documentary of ANTARA.

Nevertheless, Heru claims that the Jakarta Provincial Government (Pemprov DKI) will continue to be responsible for addressing the poor air quality in Jakarta.

Heru mentioned some efforts being undertaken, such as increasing electric vehicles in both public transportation and official vehicles. Heru also stated that Pemprov DKI is actively involved in tree-planting activities.

He mentioned that during his time as Acting Governor, he had planted around 15,000 trees in the capital’s area.

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