|1||South Tangerang, Banten|
|3||Surabaya, East Java|
|4||Depok, West Java|
|6||Batam, Riau Islands|
|7||Malang, East Java|
|10||Pangkalan Balai, South Sumatra|
(local time)SEE WORLD AQI RANKING
|1||Karawang, West Java|
|3||Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan|
|7||Kendari, Sulawesi Tenggara|
|8||Cirebon, West Java|
|9||Manokwari, West Papua|
|10||Mamuju, West Sulawesi|
(local time)SEE WORLD AQI RANKING
2020 Air quality average
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups
2020 average US AQI
PM2.5 concentration in Indonesia air is currently 4 times above WHO exposure recommendation
Indonesiais a country that lies between the Indian and Pacific oceans. It consists ofover 17 thousand islands, which makes it the world’s largest island nation. Itcovers an area of almost 2 million square kilometres and has a population ofapproximately 267 million, according to a census conducted in 2018. In 2019 itranked as the 6th most polluted country out of 98 contendersworldwide. The average US AQI figure for this year was 141 with levels of PM2.5being 5 times over the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) exposurerecommendation.
InSouth Tangerang, for 10 months of the year, the air quality is classed as“Unhealthy”, and for the remaining 2 months, it falls into the “Unhealthy forSensitive Groups” category. “Unhealthy” figures are between 55.5 and 150.4 µg/m³,whilst “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” are between 35.5 and 55.4 µg/m³. In thecity of Pekanbaru, a “Very unhealthy “figure was recorded in September thisyear with a concentration of 214.9 µg/m³.
What are the main sources of air pollution in Indonesia?
Withouta doubt, most of Indonesia’s air pollution comes from forest fires. DuringOctober 2015, there were nearly 5,000 fires simultaneously burning acrossforests and peatland. In just one day, approximately 80 million metric tonnesof carbon dioxide (CO2) were produced. This was five times more thanthat of the entire US economy. The remaining pollution is produced by thetransportation and energy production sectors.
Emissionsfrom coal-fired power plants are rapidly increasing over the west side of Java.There are currently seven power plants within 100 kilometres of Jakarta andthere are plans for a further 5 to be built to satisfy the increasing demandfor electricity. This will be equivalent to adding another 10 million cars tothe road network.
Theextremely poor air quality in Jakarta is due to the aforementioned powerstations as well as transport emissions, household emissions, the constructionindustry, road dust and unchecked burning of forests and agricultural land. Allof this happens daily and affects the lives of its 25 million residents.
Some57 citizens have come together and formed a coalition with the intention oftaking legal action against the government by submitting a Citizens’ Lawsuit atthe Central Jakarta District Court. One of their key demands is that thegovernment adopts stricter policies concerning air pollution regulations. Thecurrent regulation dates back to 1999 and does not reflect the effects ofclimate change and the worsening levels of air quality. They are also demandingthat the government improves the monitoring of the situation and that theresults from such are made readily available to the public.
Twolegal statutes guarantee the right to clean air, the 1945 IndonesianConstitution and the 1999 Law on Environmental Protection and Management.
Accordingto IQAir.com, operatedby the reputable Swiss company, air quality is gradually getting worse. In 2017a PM2.5 figure was recorded of 29.7 µg/m³ or “Moderate”. In 2018 this figurerose to 45.3 µg/m³ or “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” and showed anotherincrease in 2019 when concentrations measured 49.4 µg/m³, on average. Thesefigures were recorded in the capital Jakarta but reflect the general trendthroughout most of Indonesia.
Bycontrast, the cleanest air can be found in the city of Denpasar on the islandof Bali. With a US AQI reading of 66 and a PM2.5 concentration of 19.4 µg/m³,it falls into the “Moderate” category (12.1-35.4 µg/m³).
In June 2019, at the end of Ramadan, it istraditional for families to return to their home provinces for a few days tovisit remote family members. This exodus from the city is noticeable throughthe improvement in the air quality due to the almost total lack of traffic. One day before the start of the holidays,Jakarta recorded the worst ever levels of air pollution. This was based onfigures noted by AirVisual,the air quality monitoring app. The recorded figure was 210 US AQI which rankedJakarta well above other badly polluted cities such as Delhi, Beijing andDubai.
An AQI figure is based on the measurement offive most abundantly found pollutants in the air. Mainly the fine particulatematter of PM2.5, sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2),carbon monoxide (CO) and ground-level ozone (O3). Any recordedfigure of over 100 is considered to be “unhealthy”, so a figure of over 200 isclassed as being “very unhealthy”. These are based on the recommendedguidelines by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Unfortunately, the problemof air pollution is not a new issue for Indonesia as their air has been heavilypolluted for years. Throughout the whole of 2017, the US operated monitoringstations recorded a mere 26 days when the quality of air could be classed as“good”. Most of these days were in the rainy season when the heavy storms cleanthe air by washing the pollutants away. Because of this, it is said to reducethe life expectancy of its residents by 2.3 years. Out of all the pollutantssuspended in the atmosphere, it is the fine particulate matter of PM2.5 thatcauses the most problems. These microscopic particles are inhaled deeply intothe lungs where they dramatically increase the risk of a shorter lifeexpectancy due to heart disease, strokes, pulmonary disease, and acute lowerrespiratory disease.
Out of the 44 sub-districts in Jakarta, 16 ofthem report “upper respiratory infections” as being the most prevalent cause ofillnesses. Almost 2,000 babies were recoded to have low birth weights and over7,000 Jakartans die prematurely because of constant exposure to polluted air.
Accordingto data measured at a weather station in Central Jakarta for the first 6 monthsof 2019, there was a slight measurable improvement to the air quality. Thelevel for 2020 was 24.33 µg/m³ compared to the corresponding period of time for2019 when it measured 28.57 µg/m³.
Thecost to human health from the effects of heavily polluted air is shocking.After the notably bad burning season in 2015, it was reported that over 75,000cases of patients suffering from upper respiratory infections needed medicalassistance. It is said that over 57 per cent of Jakarta’s population sufferfrom respiratory problems directly linked to air pollution. Bronchial asthma,bronchopneumonia, and coronary artery diseases are the most common occurrences.Several new coal-fired power plants have recently been built to help meet theincreasing demand for electricity. This 35,000-megawatt project is expected toincrease the number of premature deaths from air pollution to almost 30,000.
InSeptember 2019, it was reported that an estimated 10 million children were atrisk from air pollution because of the wildfires that were burning out of controlin Sumatra and Kalimantan. Small children are especially vulnerable becausethey breathe more rapidly as their lungs are not fully developed and theirbodies’ defences are not fully developed. UNICEF states that air pollution canhave adverse effects on babies, even before they are born. This can result inlow birth weights and often the babies are born prematurely. Over 2.4 millionchildren under the age of five were living in Sumatra and Kalimantan whilst thefires were burning. Every year, many of the schools temporarily close due tothe polluted air which leads to children missing out on vital education.
Peatlandand forest fires are common during the dry season in Indonesia but it isgetting worse due to extended droughts and global warming.
UNICEFunderstands the importance of warning the affected families about the dangersof air pollution and is currently working with the Indonesian government to tryto find a solution.
Itis generally believed that the regulation and control of land management needsto be stronger. The government needs to lay down guidelines stating how StateForest Land can be used. A limited amount of permits for exploration of thepeatlands and forested areas should be introduced. New developments could belicensed by the government and strict checking and enforcement need to follow.Peatland canals could be formed to help with the drainage and irrigation. It isimperative that the stock of Indonesia’s forest carbon is protected and notallowed to become depleted. Sustainable forest management and conservation needto be encouraged as well as rehabilitation and regeneration of degraded areas.
Indonesiamust break away from its reliance on fossil fuels as a means of powergeneration. The emissions of carbondioxide (CO2) need mitigating in order to enhance energy securityand protect reserves for the future. The latest technology needs to be embracedsuch as the “clean-coal” system. This is in itself a complex process whichinvolves many different procedures. The carbon emissions are captured andstored under the earth, but the disadvantage is that it is an expensive systemand is extremely difficult to retrofit to existing power plants.
Thetransportation sector needs to be brought up-to-date too. Many vehicles inSoutheast Asian countries are very old and therefore lack the modern technologythat is installed in newer models. The latest motorbikes switch off the enginewhen they detect no forward movement. This prevents vehicles standing idle atjunctions waiting for the traffic signals to permit them to move forward.
Ithas been suggested that they could adopt European emission standards andintroduce Euro 4 regulations in 2021 and then the tighter restrictions of Euro5 in 2025.
Mostpeople already know that climate change is mainly due to the burning of fossilfuels in transportation, manufacturing processes and power production, butcertain agricultural practices can also make major contributions. One of themain causes of this is the burning of organic matter to prepare the land forthe next crop or to extend the agricultural area by burning adjacent scrublandand forests.
Theworst time of year for this in Indonesia is the autumn after the dry summer. In2015 it was particularly bad because of the extra-long dry season and a fiercetropical storm, the fires raged out of control for months. The whole of Indonesia,together with parts of neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore was engulfed in atoxic haze. This caused schools, airports and public services to close becauseof the unhealthy conditions or lack of visibility.
TheGlobal Fire Emissions Database stated that for most of the months of Septemberand October the readings exceeded all economic activity in the US and, intotal, produced more carbon dioxide than the entire nation of Germany.
Whilstmost of the fires are started by small farmers, it is generally not for theirbenefit but for large foreign conglomerates who are demanding more and moreproduction capacity. These monocrop plantations dominate Indonesia’scountryside with the most common ones being for palm oil production. Indonesiais now the world’s main producer of palm oil with a 2015 production figure ofwell over 31 million metric tonnes. This is a 50 per cent increase in the 2008figures.
Inorder to address this situation, the legal status of small-scale farmingcommunities needs to be established. The Indonesian government regard slash andburn as a crime against humanity.
Outof Indonesia’s 472 million acres of land, 75 per cent is classified as “StateForest Land” which is a misnomer.30 per cent of this land actually does nothave trees growing there, instead it has bushes and shrubs and other lowgrowing vegetation. This is ideal Slash and Burn land! The smaller farmingcommunities often live on this land but with no legal right to do so. Becauseof this, they have no access to legal protection or any governmental services.They sometimes farm the area for their own use, but it is mainly done on behalfof the international companies who demand more land for palm oil production.There is no incentive for them to adopt sustainable farming methods becausethey know no better.
There are foreign NGOs working inpartnership with some local groups who have helped them attain legal rights tocultivate over 37,000 acres of State Forest Land in a sustainable way. Slashand Burn techniques are strictly not permitted in these areas yet output andalso income have increased.