Jakarta Air Pollution Polemic: Government Ignores And Fails To Guarantee Citizens’ Rights – OpEd

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Air pollution is a problem faced by big cities in the world, one of which is the capital city of Jakarta, Indonesia. Poor air quality in the Jakarta and surrounding areas is still a serious problem and has not been resolved until now. Based on data from the Iqair Air Quality Monitoring Site, Thursday (10/8/2023) at 11.00, Jakarta recorded a concentration of the Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM2.5) pollutant concentration of 75.1 micrograms per cubic meter. At that time, the Jakarta Air Quality Index (AQI) reached 164, number two highest in Indonesia. The first order of the city with the worst pollution is South Tangerang with an index of 170.

The main causes of Jakarta’s poor air quality are caused by the presence of Electric steam power plant (ESPP), industry, and transportation. A study conducted by an independent research institute called the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) in August 2020 entitled ‘Transboundary Air Pollution in Jakarta, Banten and West Java Provinces’ showed that there were 418 industrial activities within a 100 kilometer radius from Jakarta. . Based on the results of the analysis, 136 of the 418 industrial activities have high-emission facilities that affect air quality in Jakarta. 86% of these high emission facilities operate outside the boundaries of Jakarta. 62 operate in West Java, 56 in Banten, 1 in Central Java and 1 in South Sumatra. Everything is still within a radius of 100 kilometers from Jakarta.

Furthermore, the research also states that air pollution in Jakarta does not only come from local emission sources as claimed by the government. Most ESPPs contribute significantly to the level of air pollution in Jakarta. However, the emission contribution is not included in the emission figures within the Jakarta city limits, so it is not counted as a source.

CREA, said that cross-border pollution from Banten and West Java provinces is the main contributor to air pollution in the city of Jakarta. The highest came from the power generation and manufacturing energy industry sectors.

Until now, there are at least 16 coal-based ESPPs located not far from Jakarta. A total of 10 ESPPs are located in Banten, while the other six are in West Java. While the manufacturing industry was recorded in 2019 there were a total of 418 facilities found within a 100 kilometer radius of the Jakarta metropolitan area.

Of that number, 136 of them are in very high-emitting sectors such as cement and steel, glass, oil and gas refining, coal-fired power plants, metals, petrochemicals and plastics. If dissected in more detail, as much as 86% of these high-emission facilities operate outside the administrative boundaries of Jakarta; of which 62 facilities are in West Java, 56 in Banten, 1 in Central Java, and 1 in South Sumatra within a 100 kilometer radius from Jakarta. CREA’s research also found that the next pollutant source came from the transportation sector, then residential and commercial, and finally domestic, such as burning waste.

Even though the CREA research was carried out three years ago, the facts have not changed until now. The current conditions are considered worse and have increased protests from the public or interest groups who demand the right to breathe clean air.

Increasing Cases of ARI

According to a study published by the Energy Policy Institute (EPIC) from the University of Chicago, in the last 10 years there has been an increase in fine pollutants in the air in Jakarta and its surroundings, which have increased by up to 30%.

Under these conditions, this agency estimates that the life expectancy of the population of Jakarta and its surroundings can be reduced by 2.6 years. This life expectancy is compared to when the population can breathe air with the PM 2.5 standard from World Health Organization (WHO).

Based on data from the WHO, as much as 90% of the world’s people breathe unfit air. As many as 7 million deaths and 2 million from Southeast Asia are caused by exposure to outdoor and indoor air pollution.

Among the distribution of this pollution, WHO says that air pollution plays a role of nearly 25% of all diseases and causes of lung cancer deaths worldwide. Then, air pollution also contributes to 17% of all illnesses and deaths from ARI, 16% of all deaths from stroke, 15% of all deaths from systemic heart disease, and eight percent of all deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Head of the Surveillance, Epidemiology and Immunization Section of the DKI Jakarta Health Service Ngabila Salama, stated that residents who get coughs, colds and even pneumonia every month average 100 thousand cases out of 11 million residents.

Everyone with ARI symptoms varies depending on the cause. For people who live in big cities like Jakarta or Tangerang City, you should be aware of the symptoms of ARI. Among them, experience coughing, increased body temperature, pain in the head, difficulty breathing due to nasal congestion. Throat feels sore, especially when used to swallow. The appearance of symptoms of sinusitis, such as runny nose, fever, and facial pain, and the skin turns bluish due to lack of oxygen.

With the current air condition, public awareness is needed to maintain health and cleanliness, especially when outdoors for a long time. Communities must implement clean and healthy behavior.

This is because ARI cases are not solely caused by air pollution. This problem is also the result of active smoking, a weakened immune system, or indications of problems with the heart and lungs.

Community Protest

The problem of air pollution has long worried Jakarta residents. Two years ago, several residents who were members of the Advocacy Team for the Capital Movement (Universal Coalition Clean Air Initiative) sued a number of parties including President Joko Widodo, the Minister of Environment and Forestry, and the Governor of DKI Jakarta regarding the handling of air pollution.

However, until now, Jokowi and the Minister of Environment and Forestry (LHK) have filed an appeal against the lawsuit.

On August 16, 2023, the coalition urged the Provincial Government of DKI Jakarta and the other defendants to carry out the court decisions that had been won up to the high court level as the state’s good will. As is well known, a citizen lawsuit (CLS) regarding the Right to Clean Air was won at the Central Jakarta District Court on September 16 2021.

The coalition urges both the central government and DKI Jakarta to immediately take steps including:

  1. The President of the Republic of Indonesia to immediately take concrete action to resolve the problem of air pollution and stop delaying responsibility by using legal remedies.
  2. Minister of Environment and Forestry to supervise the Acting Governor of DKI Jakarta, Governor of Banten, and Governor of West Java in conducting an inventory of cross-border emissions in the provinces of DKI Jakarta, Banten, and West Java.
  3. Minister of Home Affairs to supervise and guide the performance of the Acting Governor of DKI Jakarta in controlling air pollution.
  4. The Minister of Health to calculate the reduction in health impacts due to air pollution in DKI Jakarta Province which needs to be achieved as a basis for the consideration of the Acting Governor of DKI in formulating strategies and action plans for air pollution control.
  5. Pemprov DKI Jakarta to conduct an inventory of ambient air quality, determine regional ambient air quality status annually and announce it to the public, as well as develop and implement strategies and action plans for air pollution control by taking into account the distribution of emissions from pollutant sources.

There are four demands made by the coalition, namely;

  1. Encouraging policy reform and disclosure of public information about industries, factories and coal power plants that contribute to air pollution.
  2. Asking the defendants and co-defendants to carry out the Citizen Law Suit (CLS) decision.
  3. Asking the government to stop looking for excuses to abdicate air pollution control responsibilities.
  4. Asking the government to stop providing false solutions in an effort to restore Jakarta’s air quality.

How Does the Government Respond?

The DKI Jakarta Government through the Environment Agency has taken steps by submitting the proposed Governor Regulation on Air Pollution Control Strategies to be signed by the Acting Governor of DKI Jakarta. The proposal includes 3 strategies; first, improve the management of air pollution control. Second, reducing air pollution emissions from mobile sources such as transportation, third, minimizing pollution emissions from immovable sources such as industry. People are also encouraged to use environmentally friendly transportation and choose to use public transportation.

The environmental stability of the State Capital is very important for Indonesia’s state affairs. President Jokowi has held a limited meeting with the Government of DKI Jakarta to discuss the implementation of hybrid working, work from office and work from home (WFH) which will begin on August 28, 2023. Arrangements for days and locations for Civil Servants have been regulated in Presidential Regulation No. 21 of 2023 which is then adjusted by the staffing officials of each agency, namely 75% (home) and 25% (office). 

Employees whose job is to carry out face-to-face public services such as schools, hospitals and firefighters must continue to work but the working hours are conditional. Another offer was also made regarding the 4 in 1 policy in using a vehicle in the same household, where private transportation users are expected to use one vehicle in one house if it is in the same direction.

How Should It Be?

In an effort to deal with pollution problems in Indonesia, especially the capital city of Jakarta, the government should provide a comprehensive solution, not only touching the air problem in the transportation sector, but also looking at the energy and manufacturing industry sectors which are also the main factors causing the poor air quality.

The government must not ignore the protests and demands of the people. The community should be involved in policy making so that the implementation is right on target. It is hoped that the government through the Ministry of Health can take concrete steps in overcoming air pollution which has an impact on public health at this time. Considering that more than hundreds of thousands of people are affected by ARI, the number is increasing.

In addition, the government can also provide access to transparent information regarding air quality, law enforcement and recovery to the public. One of them is an early warning system when air quality deteriorates, as well as an inventory and tightening of ambient quality standards based on the results of scientific research studies (not only vehicles, but also industrial sector players).

The government should prioritize strategic plans and long-term solutions in the National Long-Term Development Plan, such as periodic emission inventories, tightening of ambient air quality standards, and early warning systems.

Realizing this certainly requires the cooperation of all parties (central, provincial, city, neighboring cities, government, media, community), either through a number of laws and regulations, surveillance programs, law enforcement, to high public awareness.

In the end, solving pollution is not easy because it requires large resources, a long time, expensive investment, careful planning and the need for great political will from the central and regional governments.

*Silvanah, a student in the International Relations Masters Program at Gadjah Mada University. Nur Muliasari MS, a student of the Master of Government Science Program at Gadjah Mada University also contributed to writing this article.*


Silvanah is an International Relations Student at the Islamic University of Indonesia who focuses on discussing environmental issues.

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