Jakarta unmoved by worsening air quality

Jakarta unmoved by worsening air quality
Major pollutant: Black fumes come out of the exhaust pipe of a car that runs on diesel fuel during a free emissions test at Taman Mini Indonesia Indah culture and tourism park in East Jakarta.
PHOTO: The Jakarta Post/ANN

More and more Jakartans are using face masks on public transportation and motorcycles and while walking on the streets.

Just like in many other cities of developing countries, people in Jakarta are being exposed to worsening air quality.

But the city administration appears to be slow to respond to the alarming rate of air pollution, with no clear plan on the table on how to address the problem.

Instead, the administration has said it will simply rely on old programs, like boosting the usage of natural gas for vehicles and better enforcement of emission tests for vehicles.

Environment Agency deputy head Ali Maulana conceded that the air quality in Jakarta was far below the safe level.

"Areas like North Jakarta and West Jakarta have the worst air pollution level," he said on Tuesday on the sidelines of a workshop on air pollution by the Breath Easy Jakarta project, which was supported by the United States Environment Protection Agency.

The main reasons for the pollution are densely populated residential areas and a lack of adequate open green space.

"Because of the dense population, mobility of the people is also high. In addition, many areas in North Jakarta are dedicated to industry," he said.

Ali said his agency would continue enforcing the obligation for public vehicles to use natural compressed gas (CNG). The regulation has been in force since 2007.

"However, implementation is poor due to the low number of available CNG stations and poor law enforcement," he said. The administration also plans to convert all of its official service vehicles to be CNG-powered. "I believe the impact will be quite significant given the high number of service vehicles [owned by the administration]," he said.

The agency alone currently has 1,200 vehicles, including garbage and pickup trucks.

"After we modify all of our vehicles, we will ask other agencies to follow our lead," he said. Ali said his agency would co-operate with city-owned company PT Jakarta Propertindo (Jakpro) to establish CNG stations and mobile refueling units (MRU).

Currently, only bajaj (threewheeled motorized public vehicles), Transjakarta buses and some taxis use CNG as fuel.

In the future, all vehicles in the capital will be obliged to pass emission tests.

Sarath Guttikunda, a scientist from Desert Research Institute (DRI), which participated in the project, revealed that the level of fine particles ( PM10 ) in Greater Jakarta's air was mostly categorized as unsafe. "The safe level is between 10 to 25 microgram per cubic meter," he said, adding that almost all areas in Jakarta were found to have higher levels of PM10.

"Areas with heavy traffic like toll roads, airports and ports are at the PM10 level of more than 125 microgram per cubic meter," said Guttikunda, who conducted the study from 2012 to 2015.

His study also showed that there were an average of 3,700 premature deaths, 260,000 asthma attacks and 85,000 emergency room visits per year.

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