Jakarta (AP) —
As children play in the street, noxious gas fumes emit from a nearby coal-fired power plant. Ash and the smell of smoke rose in the air, above the village where Edy Suryana lived. For more than thirty years he lived in the shadow of a power plant in Cilegon, a city located only 97 kilometers from Jakarta.
Edy Suryana and a number of residents of the village have witnessed how their loved ones suffer from coughs, itchy skin and other health problems, which many believe are caused by the smog that always blankets the area.
Pollution has increased cases of respiratory disease and deaths in the northern part of Java Island. This includes the capital Jakarta, which according to data collected by the Swiss air technology company, IQAir, is one of the most polluted cities in the world.
Steam coming out of the chimney of a coal-fired power plant, in Cilegon, Banten. Air pollution has triggered a spike in respiratory illnesses and deaths on the island of Java, including the capital Jakarta.
Combination Smoke Pollution
The smog in this metropolitan city with a population of 11.2 million people comes from a combination of vehicle and motorbike exhaust fumes, burning waste and industry, as well as smoke from coal-fired power plants. Emissions from coal-fired power plants contribute to the rise of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which also heats the earth. These were the main focus of the UN Climate Summit – otherwise known as COP28 – which took place last week in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Countries like Indonesia are struggling to balance increasing demand to drive industrialization, with the need to reduce carbon emissions and protect public health.
Edy Suryana saw for himself how his brother-in-law died of lung problems in 2010. And nine years later, the dirty air has worsened his daughter’s TB disease.
“We are clearly affected. In 2010 my brother-in-law died after one year of marriage to my sister. “His lungs burned, even though he didn’t smoke,” he said.
Various Health Problems Due to Air Pollution
Usually healthy residents complain of itchy eyes and sore throats when air pollution levels soar beyond levels considered safe by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Indonesian government. A spokesperson for the Indonesian Ministry of Health said cases of acute respiratory infections (ARI) and pneumonia had indeed increased. He also admitted that air pollution in Jakarta had exceeded WHO safe limits.
Data from the DKI Jakarta Health Service shows that the number of residents treated for pneumonia in January – August doubled compared to the same period the previous year, namely 9,192 cases.
A pulmonary specialist or pulmonologist at Persahabatan Hospital, Feni Fitriani, said, “If you look at this subjectively, the symptoms of prolonged coughs and colds are often experienced by people of working age, or the working generation generation. The coughs and colds they suffer often last longer than usual. They usually only experience this for 3-5 days. “Now, even after 2-3 weeks, the cough still continues.”
Thousands of Deaths and Hospitalizations Due to Pollution
According to research by Vital Strategies, a global public health NGO based in New York, air pollution has the potential to cause more than 10,000 deaths and 5,000 hospitalizations in Jakarta in 2019.
Back Dr. Feni Fitriani explained, “Air quality that shows an index of 145-150 or more means unhealthy for certain groups. If it exceeds an index of 150, it means it is unhealthy for everyone. “The last few months the air quality around us has been unhealthy.”
The air quality index assesses how clean or polluted the air is each day. This index ranges from zero to 500. The higher the number, the worse the air quality.
The number of patients with acute respiratory infections (ARI) and pneumonia who came to Persahabatan Hospital, a hospital specializing in lung diseases, between January and August has doubled, added Feni Fitriani.
“For these two diagnoses, ARI and pneumonia, there was an increase in visits to polyclinics of up to 100 percent, which means more people came with these symptoms and diagnoses than in previous years. “Many of them are of working age and complain of persistent coughs and colds,” said Feni.
Many Jakarta residents are forced to live on heavily polluted streets to earn a living. One of them is Misnar, a street vendor, who spends his days working outdoors.
Misnar was hospitalized last September and has spent the days of his treatment in a special air room to treat the acute pneumonia he was suffering from. His eldest daughter, Siti Nurhazanah, said her father’s health condition had worsened because he regularly worked outdoors, in polluted air.
Misnar, a street vendor suffering from pneumonia, accompanied by his daughter Siti Nurhazanah, is being treated at the Persahabatan Hospital in Jakarta.
The doctor advised Misnar to stay at home first after being allowed to leave the hospital. But all this time he made a living by selling goods on the street. So Misnar’s only choice was to wear a mask to help filter the dirty air he breathed.
“I want father to stay at home. My father is old, already 63 years old. “Bad air has an impact on their health condition,” said Nurhazanah.
The Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry said solving the pollution problem was complicated. Emissions from burning coal, which is highly polluting, contribute to a third of air pollution in Indonesia. The government has promised to reduce emissions in the coming decades, but it still has to provide most of Indonesia’s energy needs.
Sri Anindiati Nursastri also recently suffered from respiratory illness. He believes that the government should take more steps to resolve the air pollution issue.
“I think the government could have taken more action. Maybe apart from monitoring, the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency BMKG can make more artificial rain. Also I heard coal power plants may reduce their production to reduce pollution. Maybe they can do more things like that,” he hoped.
Could Electric Vehicles Solve Pollution Problems?
Millions of vehicles and motorbikes emit emissions when the workers who use them travel to and within cities. Public transportation is still limited and adoption of electric vehicles is still slow.
According to the Ministry of Transportation, data in 2022 shows that there are 26,100 electric vehicles and 79,700 electric motorbikes operating in Indonesia, or less than one percent of the more than 17.2 million cars and 125.2 million motorbikes registered.
The Indonesian government seeks to introduce more than 530,000 electric vehicles in Indonesia by the end of 2030. The Vital Strategies study shows that to significantly reduce pollution, the government also needs to strengthen emissions regulations from factories and industry, in and around the capital city of Jakarta. (em/hour)