On August 10th, Jakarta became the world’s most polluted major city, according to data from Swiss air quality technology company IQAir. It has ranked among the top ten most polluted cities worldwide since May of this year.
Last week, Jakarta and its surrounding areas, which form a megalopolis of about 30 million people, surpassed other heavily polluted cities such as Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, Doha in Qatar and Lahore for their concentration of tiny particles known as PM2.5, which can penetrate the airways and cause respiratory problems.
“We are monitoring the situation,” Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin told reporters. “All reports about the impact of air pollution on public health will be coordinated to the related ministries and official agencies for evaluation.”
Over the last week, the air quality in the Greater Jakarta Area has been very, very bad.Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s president
Gunadi Sadikin said the ministry was stepping up tests in the general population to see if the number of respiratory diseases like asthma had increased in highly polluted areas. “President Joko Widodo has asked that there be concrete steps to tackle air pollution within one week. He has been coughing for almost four weeks and said he has never felt this way,” Indonesia’s Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy Sandiaga Uno said at a press conference after a parliamentary meeting between ministers in Jakarta, as reported by CNN. “If we look at Beijing’s success in doing that, I am very confident that with the collaboration of local governments and businesses, we can also improve air quality in Jakarta – it will have a long term impact on public health,” Uno said.
Jakarta’s subway rail network is to be completed to help reduce pollution. The country has pledged to stop building new coal-fired power plants from 2023 and to become carbon neutral by 2050. According to Greenpeace Indonesia, ten coal-fired power plants are operating within 100 kilometers of the capital.
Jakarta residents have long complained about toxic air from chronic traffic, industrial smoke and coal-fired power plants. Some of them initiated and won a civil lawsuit in 2021 demanding the government take action to control air pollution.
The court ruled, at that time, that President Joko Widodo should set national air quality standards to protect human health, and that the Minister of Health and the Governor of Jakarta should devise strategies to control air pollution.
President Widodo said that the solution would be to move the capital to Nusantara, which his government is building from scratch on the island of Borneo. The designation of the new capital is scheduled for 2024 and involves the relocation of at least 16,000 civil servants, military and police.
“Over the last week, the air quality in the Greater Jakarta Area has been very, very bad,” Widodo said, as quoted by CNN. “Supervision must be carried out in the industrial and power generation sectors and we must also educate the public to reduce emissions.”