Air Pollution in Jakarta: A Historical Overview
Air pollution is a serious problem in Jakarta, causing severe consequences for public health. A 2023 study found that over 7000 adverse hair health outcomes in children, over 10.000 deaths, and over 5000 hospitalizations that can be attributed to air pollution each year in Jakarta.
This problem is not new. Air pollution has been in the headline news for the past few years. Ahead of the 2018 Asian Games event, Jakarta became the most polluted city in the world. In 2019, air pollution in Jakarta was considered worse than in 2018.
Recently, there has been debate that the main source of pollution in Jakarta is due to the Coal Power Plant (PLTU) in Banten. It's important to note that Indonesia's largest coal-fired power plant is the Suralaya Power Plant in Banten. CREA study reports that wind brought pollution from the Suralaya Power Plant in Banten into Jakarta, which may have contributed to air pollution in Jakarta. Is it true that the main source of pollution in Jakarta is from the coal power plant?
Source of Pollution
While there are various air pollutants, including gases, particulates, and biological molecules, our focus will be on Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2). We chose NO2 for our focus because it mainly comes from human activities and is easier to track than other air pollutants. This ensures that our observations are precise and reliable.
Human activities are the primary source of emission gases causing air pollution. Combustion of fossil fuels, for example, releases Nitrogen Dioxide into the air, making it a key contributor to air pollution. The main sources of NO2 resulting from human activities are transportation, power plants and industrial sectors. These sources are significant contributors to air pollution, especially in Jakarta and its surrounding areas. Notably, there are two areas where pollution levels peak: the Jabodetabek region and near the coal power plant in Banten.
Understanding Jakarta's Pollution Dynamics
We focus on three main factors to understand pollution in Jakarta: NO2 levels, precipitation, and wind direction. We also see how the COVID-19 restrictions have briefly affected pollution. We use NO2 levels to directly measure air quality. Precipitation can wash away pollution, making the air cleaner. Wind direction helps us see where pollution is coming from or going to, which is important for understanding the role of coal power plants surrounding Jakarta that are often blamed for pollution.
To ensure the reliability of our findings, we've sourced data from credible platforms. NO2 levels are obtained from Sentinel-5P satellite imagery, rainfall data is collected from Indonesia's meteorological agency BMKG, and wind direction data is sourced from the ERA5 satellite. All data is aggregated monthly for a clear view of pollution trends.
Rainy Season Lowers Pollution in Jakarta
Jakarta experiences a tropical monsoon climate, characterized by distinct rainy and dry seasons. During the rainy season, which typically lasts from November to March, the city witnesses heavy rainfall. This rain acts as a natural cleanser, washing away pollutants and leading to a decrease in air pollution levels. Conversely, the dry season, from April to October, sees minimal rainfall. Without rain to clear away pollutants, air pollution tends to rise. As you'll observe in the images below, this trend is clearly evident, with pollution levels dropping during the wet months and escalating during the drier periods.
Wherever the Wind Blows, There the Pollution Is Carried
Wind direction significantly influences the spread of pollution in Jakarta. The winds between April and October typically push pollution towards the west, as exemplified by the August 2020 image below. Conversely, from November to March, easterly winds move the pollution towards the east, evident from the December 2020 image. For a more comprehensive visual representation spanning various months, readers can refer to the video linked in this article.
Wind Carries Pollution Westward
Wind Carries Pollution Eastward
Pollution Trends: The Impact of Lockdown
Interestingly, Jakarta experienced a decrease in pollution during the 2020 lockdown, known locally as "PSBB" (Pembatasan Sosial Berskala Besar). However, by 2021, pollution levels returned to pre-lockdown figures. This rising trend continued into 2022 and 2023, as shown below.
Another Pollution Spike: Jakarta 2023
Since early 2023, Jakarta’s pollution levels have been rising once again. The map below illustrates that from June to August, winds directed towards Sumatra, indicating that pollution from the Suralaya power plant didn't impact Jakarta. In fact, even without pollution from Banten, Jakarta seems capable of producing significant pollution on its own.
Analysing Jakarta's pollution trends is a multifaceted task. Jakarta's pollution dynamics are influenced by various factors, including rain, wind, and even events like the COVID pandemic. However, it's evident that Jakarta contributes significantly to its own pollution.
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