Jakarta is the world's most polluted city - Blame the dry season and vehicles for the gray skies, says govt

Haze blankets the main business district in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Aug. 11, 2023. Dry season and exhaust emission from motorized vehicles are the main causes of the air pollution in Jakarta, Indonesian authorities said Friday as the capital city became one of the world's most polluted cities according to Swiss air quality technology company IQAir. - AP

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP): The dry season and and motorised vehicles are the main causes of the air pollution in Jakarta, Indonesian authorities shave announced, after a Swiss air quality technology company named the city as the most polluted in the world.

Thick smoke and gray skies have appeared every morning for the past few months in Jakarta, the capital city of the world's fourth most populous country.

Jakarta routinely tops listings of the world's most polluted cities, most recently in a ranking by IQAir, which is based in Switzerland.

"In fact, the condition of Jakarta’s air quality throughout 2023 has fluctuated quite a bit,” Asep Kuswanto, head of Jakarta Environment Agency said at a conference on Friday.

Indonesia is now in the dry season, which runs from July to September, when air pollution will peak. Air quality in the greater Jakarta area deteriorates as it is impacted by dry air from the eastern side of the country.

The use of motorized vehicles is also a major factor. Data from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry said 44% of air pollution comes from transportation, compared to 31% from industry.

Jakarta's streets are clogged with inefficient and polluting vehicles, especially motorcycles. Maintenance standards are poor and rarely enforced. A lack of public transportation means most people are dependent on private vehicles, which can be stalled in traffic for hours at a time.

The city of Jakarta is home to more than 11 million people, with a total of 30 million in the greater metropolitan area. Air pollution has become a sensitive issue, with millions commuting into the city daily from satellite communities.

In 2021, an Indonesian court ruled that President Joko Widodo and six other top officials had neglected citizens’ rights to clean air and ordered them to improve the poor air quality in the capital.

Cases of respiratory diseases believed to be linked to air pollution are on the rise. The Jakarta health office also acknowledged that there was an increase in health problems caused by air pollution in 2023, compared to 2022.

"It is increased compared to 2022. And it is almost the same condition we found in 2019 and 2018, before the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dwi Oktavia, head of disease prevention and control at the Jakarta Health Agency, said.

In order to prevent further increases, "we should actively be using public transportation and bicycles,” Oktavia said.

On Monday, President Widodo acknowledged that air pollution in Jakarta had been a problem for years. Moving the capital city from Jakarta to Nusantara, on the island of Borneo, is one of the solutions, Widodo said.

First proposed in 2019, Widodo’s plan to move the capital would involve constructing government buildings and housing from scratch around the seaport of Balikpapan, about 2,000 kilometers northeast of Jakarta.

"One solution is to reduce the burden on Jakarta so that some of it will later be moved to Nusantara. And the mass transportation is a must,” Widodo said.

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