Environmental group Committee for Leaded Gasoline Phase-out (KPBB) says that Jakarta has the worst air quality in the country, with residents getting only 27 days of clean air per year.
KPBB chairman Achmad Safruddin said the air quality in Jakarta was worse than in Semarang and Bandung, two of Java’s largest cities, which get more than a month of clean air per year.
Safrudin said that vehicle emissions were to blame for the low air quality. “Around 70 percent of air pollution is caused by motorized vehicle emission,” he said.
Data from the outfit shows that Jakarta has failed to lower the level of air pollution from the maximum threshold of 150 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said that more than half of the burden from air pollution on human health is borne by people in developing countries. WHO guidelines say that, to prevent ill health, those levels should be lower than 20 micrograms per cubic meter.
In Indonesia, Government Regulation No. 41/1999 on Air Pollution Control set a clean air standard of a maximum 60 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter.
Safrudin said that the city government and the automotive industry should work together to improve fuel quality, low emission technology, as well as traffic and transport management.
“The administration should also tighten emission standards and enforce the law consistently,” he said.
As the air quality has deteriorated, a number of Jakartans have taken preventative measures, including wearing anti-pollution masks.
“I will keep on wearing this mask until the air quality improves. The pollution today is just so bad,” office worker Sherilla Priscylla told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday. She said that the exhaust from old Kopaja buses annoyed her the most.
Fellow Jakartan Nur Widi Baniati said that she often got red eyes and headaches from pollution in downtown Jakarta.
She noted that air quality had worsened over the last few years. “I went abroad for my study for five years, and when I came back the pollution was so much worse,” she said.
Jakarta Environmental Management Agency (BPLHD) head Peni Susanti dismissed the KPBB finding, saying that the NGO had no authority to release the data.
“We doubt that the KPBB has the competence to issue the figures,” Peni told the Post on Tuesday.
Peni said that Jakarta in fact had managed to improve its air pollution level from the annual average of 68.5 micrograms per cubic meter in 2009 to 48.5 last year.
“This is far below the maximum threshold of 150 micrograms per cubic meter,” she said. Peni also cited a survey announced late last year which described the overall air quality in Jakarta as “good”.
A survey of Asian cities by the Clean Air Initiative (CAI) found that in terms of air quality, Jakarta is in the same league as other Asian cities notorious for air pollution: Bangkok, Hanoi, Manila and Jinan in China.
Jakarta got a score of 61.9 for overall air quality, barely making the “good” range of 61 to 80.
Peni said that comparing Jakarta with other cities in the archipelago was not fair.
“An apple-to-apple comparison would place Jakarta among the other big densely populated cities in the world,” she said.
Peni said that other cities in the country would benefit from a smaller population and more green areas compared to the capital city.