Every breath we take holds immense importance in determining our quality of life.
Unfortunately, the air quality in Jakarta and its surrounding areas has reached a critical state.
Alarming levels of air pollution have emerged as a serious concern, significantly impacting the health and well-being of the city’s residents. In this hard-hitting exposé, we embark on a journey to uncover the stark reality of Jakarta’s air quality and explore urgent solutions to combat this pressing challenge.
Measuring Air Quality: Introducing the Air Quality Index (AQI)
The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a crucial instrument that plays a vital role in evaluating and understanding the state of air quality. It measures the concentrations of six significant pollutants that include PM2.5, PM10, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and surface-level ozone.
By quantifying these pollutants, the AQI provides a standardised measurement system that categorises air quality into specific ranges, extending from “good” to “hazardous“. Each category is assigned a numerical value ranging from 0 to 500, offering a comprehensive representation of the severity of air pollution. This index not only aids in the assessment of air quality but also serves as a valuable tool for individuals, organisations, and policymakers to make informed decisions and take necessary actions to safeguard public health and mitigate the adverse effects of poor air quality.
Health Risks and Societal Impact
The detrimental health risks associated with poor air quality cannot be understated. Analysis from iqair.com reveals the specific health risks accompanying each AQI category. In the “good” category (AQI 0-50), health risks are relatively minimal, allowing for normal outdoor activities without immediate concern. However, as air quality degrades to the “moderate” category (AQI 51-100), the risk of respiratory symptoms increases, particularly for vulnerable individuals. Consequently, it is imperative for such individuals to minimise outdoor physical activities, avoid ventilating indoor spaces with outdoor air, and ensure windows remain closed to prevent the intrusion of airborne pollutants.
In the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” category (AQI 101-150), there is a significant risk of respiratory symptoms. Individuals within this group should strictly limit outdoor activities, avoid participating in outdoor sports, wear air pollution masks, and utilise effective indoor air purifiers. Adequate room ventilation is crucial. In the “unhealthy” category (AQI 151-200), the measurement signifies a potential increase in cardiovascular and respiratory disturbances and health impacts among the population, particularly for sensitive groups. It is advised for everyone to avoid outdoor activities and use air pollution masks. Ventilation is not recommended, while air purifiers should be turned on.
When air quality deteriorates to the level of “very unhealthy” (AQI 201-250), the impact becomes even more pronounced. Sensitive groups experience a substantial decline in respiratory resilience, necessitating a complete restriction of activities. It is advised for all individuals to abstain from outdoor sports, utilise air pollution masks when venturing outside, minimise room ventilation, and ensure the effective operation of air purifiers. In the most severe category, “hazardous” (AQI more than 250), the consequences are dire. Sensitive groups face a significant decline in respiratory endurance, requiring a complete cessation of activities. It is crucial for everyone to avoid outdoor sports, wear air pollution masks, minimise room ventilation, and maintain optimal air purification to ensure clean indoor air.
July 2023: Snapshot of Air Quality
Throughout mid-July 2023, until 12th July , Jakarta has been grappling with concerning air quality levels, with an average AQI reading of 140. This places the air quality in the “unhealthy” category, particularly for individuals sensitive to air pollution. It is disconcerting to note that on multiple occasions, the AQI surpassed 150, reflecting an alarming level of air pollution. The most pronounced peak occurred on 6th July , reaching an AQI of 160.
These readings are a cause for concern, as they indicate an elevated presence of harmful pollutants in the air, posing potential risks to public health. The deteriorating air quality calls for immediate attention and concerted efforts to address the underlying causes and implement effective solutions.
The impact of such high levels of air pollution on the population, especially vulnerable groups, cannot be underestimated. The respiratory health of individuals, particularly those with pre-existing conditions, is at risk, and the overall well-being of the community is compromised. Urgent measures need to be taken to mitigate the adverse effects and improve the air quality in Jakarta.
It is crucial for the government, relevant authorities, and the general public to work together in tackling this pressing issue. Collaborative initiatives must be implemented to reduce emissions from various sources, including vehicles, industrial activities, and construction sites. Strict enforcement of air pollution control measures and the adoption of cleaner technologies are essential steps in the right direction.
Preserving Personal Health Amidst Poor Air Quality
To safeguard personal health during episodes of deteriorating air quality, several measures can be implemented. First and foremost, individuals must prioritise staying indoors when air quality is compromised. Ensuring well-sealed indoor environments, such as homes or buildings equipped with efficient air filtration systems, acts as a formidable shield against external air pollution. Additionally, employing indoor air purifiers fitted with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters aids in eliminating harmful particles from the air.
Maintaining cleanliness indoors by regularly eliminating dust and other particulates trapped on surfaces assumes paramount importance. This practice minimises the inhalation of airborne particles, substantially improving overall indoor air quality.
Indoor smoking must be strictly avoided, and exposure to secondhand smoke in areas with compromised air quality should be minimised. Smoking exacerbates indoor air pollution and poses detrimental health effects.
When venturing outdoors during periods of poor air quality, utilising effective air masks, such as those equipped with PM2.5 or N95 filters, is strongly recommended. These masks serve as a protective barrier against harmful particles, preserving respiratory health.
Furthermore, maintaining overall physical well-being is essential. Adequate hydration, a nutritious diet, and regular exercise contribute to a healthy respiratory system and boost the body’s resilience against the adverse effects of air pollution.
Lastly, individuals with underlying health conditions or heightened vulnerability to air pollution should seek guidance from medical professionals. These experts can provide tailored advice and recommendations to effectively navigate challenging air quality conditions.
The Crucial Role of Community in Air Quality Management
The local community plays a pivotal role in both safeguarding and enhancing air quality in Jakarta. Building awareness and fostering a sense of responsibility are key. Comprehensive educational campaigns and informative initiatives must be implemented to deepen the public’s understanding of this critical issue.
Active community participation in reducing vehicle emissions is paramount. Opting for public transportation, cycling, or walking effectively reduces the number of private vehicles on the road, thereby diminishing air pollution. Engaging in reforestation programs assumes great significance. By planting more trees in the vicinity, the community can contribute to air filtration and the generation of fresh oxygen.
Additionally, individuals can play their part by minimising the use of pollutant-emitting products and opting for eco-friendly alternatives. Reducing the use of harmful chemicals within households and prioritising clean energy sources are integral steps. Employing environmentally friendly technologies, such as energy-efficient electrical appliances and indoor air purifiers, further enhances air quality.
Active participation in environmental initiatives is another important step. Community involvement in environmental cleanup drives, tree planting campaigns, and advocating for clean air policies and regulations are essential. By actively engaging in decision-making processes and advocating for better air protection measures, the community can prompt positive change in environmental policies.
Through collective action and heightened awareness, Jakarta’s residents can pave the way towards significant improvements in air quality. Collaboration, combined with a shared sense of responsibility, will undoubtedly lead us to a healthier and higher quality environment for ourselves and future generations.
The writer, Muh Pungki Nur Setiawan, is a Civil Servant at The Directorate General of Taxes, Environmental Correspondent.