In the News

July 1, 2019

Jakarta’s air quality kills its residents – and it’s getting worse

EPIC's AQLI research indicates the severity of current air pollution levels in Jakarta and its repercussions on public health.
Kate Walton

The end of the Ramadan fasting period is marked by a week-long holiday in Indonesia. In Jakarta, this means that almost half the population leave the city to travel back to their hometowns and villages to celebrate Idul Fitri with their families.

Usually, this exodus is marked by a noticeable improvement in Jakarta’s air quality, with clear blue skies appearing as the road traffic all but disappears.

This year, however, on 4 June, one day before the Idul Fitri holiday, Jakarta had the worst air quality in the world, according to AirVisual, an air quality monitoring app. With an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 210, Indonesia’s capital easily ranked above other notoriously polluted cities, such as Beijing, Dubai, and New Delhi.

An AQI is measured based on five pollutants: particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone. Anything above 100 is considered “unhealthy”, while scores over 200 – looking at you, Jakarta – are “very unhealthy.”

Air quality isn’t a new problem for Indonesia, of course. Jakarta’s air has been heavily polluted for years. In 2017, the US Embassy’s air monitoring stations – located on the rooftops of the US Embassy in Central Jakarta and the Ambassador’s residence in South Jakarta – recorded just 26 days where the air quality could be deemed “good”. Most of these were during the wet season, when heavy monsoonal rains clear the skies and tamp down dust. In the first half of 2019, just 10 days of healthy air have been recorded so far.

In fact, research from the University of Chicago shows that Jakarta’s air quality is now so bad that it’s cutting 2.3 years off the average resident’s lifespan. “High air pollution is undermining Indonesians’ health,” researchers from the university’s Energy Policy Centre told Phys.Org.

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