Where Does Indonesia and Jakarta’s Air Pollution Come From?

Air pollution in Indonesia has severely worsened in recent years. From 2013 to 2016 alone, Indonesia’s air pollution doubled. In 2010, Jakarta averaged over 4 times (40 micrograms) the WHO recommended healthy limit of PM.5 air pollution. With pollution levels worsening to dangerous levels, many may wonder where Indonesia and Jakarta’s air pollution comes from.

Read More: Jakarta Air Quality (AQI) and Indonesia Air Pollution

2023 Air pollution in Jakarta

Jakarta’s poor air quality earned it the title of the most polluted city in the world in August, 2023. On the most polluted day, Jakarta PM2.5 is averaged over 5 times (80 micrograms) the WHO recommended healthy limit of PM.5 air pollution. Half of the civil servants are now work from home to cut vehicle emissions.

Jakarta air pollution map 2023

Why is Jakarta’s Air So Polluted?

Where does Indonesia and Jakarta's Air Pollution Come From?

Jakarta’s Air pollution Causes

1. Vehicle Emissions

In Indonesia’s larger cities such as Jakarta, cars, trucks and road traffic contribute a significant amount of air pollution. Motor vehicle emissions in Jakarta contributed around 31.5 percent of PM2.5 air pollution in 2008-2009. Motor vehicles in these cities contributed an even larger proportion to the city’s PM10 air pollution (larger particulate matter).

Since 2005, Indonesia has followed a rather lax standard for fuel emissions (EURO II) compared to other Asian countries. Indonesia is one of only three Asian countries to use the looser standard, and also is one of a few nations worldwide to permit the use of high octane gasoline. These loose standards exacerbate the countries pollution problem, especially in large cities with a lot of vehicles, such as Jakarta.

Where does Indonesia and Jakarta's Air Pollution Come From? Gasoline and Diesel Demand

2. Coal-fired Power Plants

In recent years, Indonesia has sharply increased its reliance on coal-fired power plants. From 2010 to 2020, coal-fired power plant electricity generation increased over two-fold. Coal burning is a significant contributor to PM2.5 air pollution.

Where does Indonesia and Jakarta's Air Pollution Come From? Coal Electricity

3. Forest and Peatland Fires

In more rural, agricultural areas of Indonesia including Sumatra and Kailmantan, forest and peatland fires create a significant amount of pollution. Much of Indonesia’s forests lie on top of swampy areas comprised of decomposed carbon-rich plan matter. Due to wind, the burning of these areas can affect air pollution levels across the country and South East Asia. In all, it is estimated that around 31% of Jakarta’s PM2.5 pollution comes from such fires.

The majority of the fires occur during the dry season in Indonesia (April to October). Therefore, Indonesia air pollution levels see large seasonal trends, with the dry season have worse air pollution levels compared to the other months (monsoon season).

For more in-depth research on the sources of Indonesia and Jakarta Air Pollution, check out the University of Chicago’s report: Indonesia’s Worsening Air Quality and its Impact on Life Expectancy.

Where does Indonesia and Jakarta's Air Pollution Come From? Fires

Bottom line: Where does Jakarta and Indonesia's air pollution come from?

The three largest sources of air pollution in Indonesia and Jakarta are vehicle emissions, coal-fired power plants, and forest/peatland fires. It is estimated that 31% of Jakarta’s air pollution comes from fires alone.

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