Air pollution returns as activity resumes

Barely visible: Anglers fishing amid a thick haze at a coastal area in Jakarta. — AFP

THE respite of bluer skies and slightly fresher air that Jakartans enjoyed during the city’s large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) has given way to smog as activities resume in the capital. But air quality during the PSBB, while generally better than other periods, was still not ideal.Data compiled by Greenpeace Indonesia from ambient air sensors at the US embassy buildings in Central and South Jakarta show that the capital did not have a single day of “good” air quality from the start of PSBB to June 4, when it began gradually easing restrictions.

“Good” air quality occurs when the air quality at a given location does not exceed the World Health Organisation standard of 25 micrograms per cubic metre for particulate matter 2.5, measured on a six-grade air quality scale.

Not a single day of healthy air was logged in the period between March 14 and April 9. Air quality was rated “moderate” for 19 days in Central Jakarta and five days in South Jakarta; “unhealthy for sensitive groups” for eight days in Central Jakarta and 17 days in South Jakarta; and “unhealthy” for five days in South Jakarta.

The period between April 10 and June 4 was also without healthy days. Central Jakarta reported moderate air quality for 30 days and “unhealthy for sensitive groups” for 26 days.

The South Jakarta sensor recorded three moderate days, 37 days that were unhealthy for sensitive groups and 14 days of unhealthy air quality.

After June 4, Jakarta rejoined the ranks of the world’s most polluted cities, according to the World Air Quality Project’s Air Quality Index, which collects data from national meteorology departments.

Air quality in the capital has not improved a lot, largely because the “new normal” habits the government is promoting emphasised preventing the spread of Covid-19 rather than controlling emissions, said Greenpeace Indonesia campaigner Bondan Andriyanu.

He urged the government to take corrective measures such as improving national air quality standards to be on par with WHO provisions and coordinating with neighbouring provinces to control pollution spillover. — The Jakarta Post/ANN

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