How is Jakarta’s air quality?

Coal-fired power plants, vehicles, forest fires are significant contributors to Jakarta’s worsening air pollution

Indonesia’s air quality has become significantly worse over the last twenty years. At the end of the twentieth century, the country’s air was relatively clean; now, it is one of the world’s twenty most polluted countries. The worst increase in air pollution took place between 2013 and 2016. Much of this is due to increases in the number of coal-fired power plants and vehicles and more frequent large-scale wildfires.

Jakarta’s air pollution has significantly worsened since 2017

Since 2017, air pollution has continued to increase. In 2019, Jakarta’s air quality was five times higher than the WHO guidelines, and Jakarta’s average Air Quality Index (AQI) increased 69% between June 2017 and June 2020. Most months of the year, moderate or health AQI scores are now rare. In other words, air is unhealthy more often than it is healthy.

The average Jakarta resident loses 4.8 years in life expectancy

In 2016, research indicated that the average Jakarta resident lost 2.3 years of life expectancy due to air pollution, despite the fact that as recently as 2013, air pollution barely had an impact on life expectancy in the city. And the situation is worsening: the 2020 Air Quality Life Index shows that air pollution causes a 4.8-year reduction in the average Jakartan resident’s life expectancy. The surrounding areas of Bekasi, South Tangerang and Bogor fare even worse, with residents losing around 5 years of life from air pollution.

Jakarta’s poor air quality is a result of many different pollutants: vehicle emissions, coal-fired power plants, manufacturing, household emissions, construction, dust, domestic rubbish burning, and seasonal wildfires.

Much of Jakarta’s air pollution is believed to come from vehicles. Usually, the city’s air quality improves during the Idul Fitri holiday at the end of Ramadan. But during Idul Fitri 2019, air pollution remained high, with an AQI of over 210. This was the highest AQI in the world on those days.

Coal-fired power plants are a big contributor to Jakarta’s air pollution

One possible reason is because there are eight existing coal-fired power plants within 100km of Jakarta. Another four plants are planned. Most concerningly, these plants emit higher levels of particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide than similar power plants in China and India. The emissions from the planned coal-fired power plants will have the same polluting effect as adding another 10 million cars to Jakarta’s roads.

Smoke from wildfire also contributes significantly to Jakarta’s air quality during dry season. At the height of widespread wildfires such as in 2015 and 2019, as much as 31% of Jakarta’s air pollution originated from wildfires.

As Jakarta’s air quality continues to worsen, it is now more important than ever to understand the impact it can have on our health, especially for vulnerable groups like pregnant women, children, and the elderly.  


References

Air Quality Life Index. 2019. Indonesia’s Worsening Air Quality and its Impact on Life Expectancy.

Air Quality Life Index. 2020. 2020 Annual Update.

Breathe Jakarta. 2020. Sensor Report: June 2020.

Greenpeace. 2017. https://www.greenpeace.org/indonesia/siaran-pers/1320/jakarta-dikepung-emisi-batubara/

Supra and Reddington, C.L. et al. 2014. ‘Contribution of vegetation and peat fires to particulate air pollution in Southeast Asia’, Environmental Research Letters 9(9).