Toxic Smog from Coal Power, Traffic, and Waste Burning Plagues Indonesia’s Jakarta

by Andrew Wright
Jakarta Air Pollution

Edy Suryana’s village, nestled near a coal power plant in northern Java, about 60 miles from Jakarta, is perpetually shrouded in a gray haze. For over 30 years, Suryana and her fellow villagers have endured the constant presence of ash and smoke in the air, leading to widespread health issues like persistent coughs, itchy skin, and other ailments.

Jakarta, a bustling metropolis with over 11 million residents, is grappling with severe air pollution. Experts point to a mix of sources, including emissions from coal-fired power plants, vehicular exhaust, trash incineration, and industrial activities, as the culprits. This has escalated respiratory illnesses and fatalities in the region, prompting calls for governmental intervention.

The emissions from these coal plants are a significant contributor to greenhouse gases, a central issue at the upcoming United Nations climate conference, COP28, in Dubai.

Indonesia faces a challenging task of balancing its industrial growth with the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions and safeguard public health.

Suryana’s personal tragedies, including the loss of his sister-in-law to lung disease and his daughter’s aggravated tuberculosis, highlight the human cost of the pollution crisis.

Jakarta consistently ranks among the world’s most polluted cities, according to IQAir data. The city’s air, often thick with the smell of petrol or heavy smoke, poses a threat to its inhabitants, leading to symptoms like itchy eyes and sore throats. In 2019, Vital Strategies linked air pollution to over 10,000 deaths and 5,000 hospitalizations in Jakarta.

Ginanjar Syuhada, a health analyst at Vital Strategies, warns that the high pollution levels in Jakarta are hazardous for outdoor activities, risking both immediate and long-term health issues.

Not everyone has the luxury of avoiding outdoor exposure. Misnar, a street vendor, was hospitalized for pneumonia exacerbated by the polluted air. Despite medical advice to stay indoors, economic necessities compel him to continue working outside, relying on face masks for some protection.

The Ministry of Health acknowledges the alarming rise in acute respiratory infections and pneumonia cases in Jakarta, exceeding WHO’s safe air quality limits.

The economic impact is also significant. Syuhada estimates annual health-related economic losses due to air pollution could reach 40 trillion rupiah (over $25.2 billion).

Tackling this issue is complex. Indonesia’s Environmental and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya notes that coal burning, a major but cost-effective energy source, accounts for a significant portion of the country’s air pollution. Despite commitments to reduce emissions, coal remains a primary energy source.

The challenge extends to the transportation sector, with millions of vehicles contributing to the pollution. Government initiatives to promote public transportation and electric vehicles have seen limited success, with electric vehicles comprising less than one percent of the total vehicles in Indonesia as of 2022.

Ambitious government goals aim to increase electric vehicle usage substantially by 2030. However, meaningful progress also requires stricter regulations on industrial emissions, which are a major contributor to Jakarta’s air pollution problem.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Jakarta Air Pollution

What are the main causes of air pollution in Jakarta, Indonesia?

The air pollution in Jakarta is primarily caused by emissions from coal-fired power plants, vehicle exhaust, trash burning, and industrial activities. These factors combine to create a toxic smog that affects the health of the city’s residents.

How does the air pollution in Jakarta impact public health?

Air pollution in Jakarta has led to a rise in respiratory illnesses and deaths. Symptoms experienced by residents include coughs, itchy skin, itchy eyes, and sore throats. Severe cases have led to hospitalizations and fatalities, particularly due to acute respiratory infections and pneumonia.

What actions are being taken to address Jakarta’s air pollution?

The Indonesian government is promoting the use of public transportation and has provided incentives for shifting to electric vehicles. However, progress has been slow. There is also a need for tighter regulations on emissions from factories and industries to effectively reduce pollution levels.

What are the economic implications of air pollution in Jakarta?

The health-related economic losses due to air pollution in Jakarta are significant, potentially causing around 40 trillion rupiah (more than $25.2 billion) a year in losses. This includes costs related to healthcare, lost productivity, and other associated expenses.

How is the issue of air pollution in Jakarta being addressed at international forums?

The issue of emissions from coal-fired power plants, a significant contributor to Jakarta’s air pollution, is a key focus at international forums like the United Nations climate conference (COP28). These discussions center around reducing greenhouse gases and mitigating climate change impacts.

More about Jakarta Air Pollution

  • Jakarta’s Air Quality Crisis
  • Health Impacts of Jakarta’s Pollution
  • Indonesia’s Environmental Policies
  • Economic Costs of Air Pollution in Jakarta
  • COP28 and Global Climate Efforts
  • Electric Vehicles in Indonesia
  • Industrial Emissions and Air Quality

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Sarah K November 29, 2023 - 1:14 pm

This article’s eye-opening, never knew air pollution could be this bad. Feel sorry for the residents there.

Jenny M. November 29, 2023 - 2:39 pm

really shocking how bad the pollution is in Jakarta! its like, health and economy both suffering…

Linda_G November 29, 2023 - 5:19 pm

I was in Jakarta last year, the smog’s no joke. You can feel it in your lungs, it’s scary…

Chris_T November 29, 2023 - 6:31 pm

wow, those stats on electric vehicles, Indonesia really needs to step up their game. climate change is real people!

Mike87 November 29, 2023 - 9:15 pm

Can’t believe the gov isn’t doing more. ppl are getting sick and its like no big deal?


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