Home world Breathless Indonesians irate over pollution crisis

Breathless Indonesians irate over pollution crisis

Breathless Indonesians irate over pollution crisis
Published September 17, 2023 Updated September 17, 2023 Bookmark Bookmark Share WhatsApp Telegram Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

JAKARTA — Soaring pollution in Indonesia’s capital has left 35-year-old Asep Muizudin Muhamad Darmini hooked up to breathing tubes at a Jakarta hospital, gazing at the dense grey haze outside.

Air pollution is hardly a new phenomenon in the megalopolis, but monitors and activists say the effects have been even worse than usual this year.

Under growing pressure, the government is beginning to recognise the contribution of industry to the soupy smog over the capital.

It sanctioned 13 firms in recent weeks for failing to meet operational standards and has since ordered remote work for some civil servants, cloud seeding, and vehicle emissions tests.

Before a regional summit last week, it even trimmed power generation at the Suralaya coal plant near Jakarta in a bid to tackle high levels of PM2.5, a class of pollutants which can penetrate deep into the lungs.

Data modelling by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) suggests emissions from the country’s coal-fired power plants in 2022 were responsible for 10,500 deaths and US$7.4 billion (S$10 billion) in health costs.

Indonesia has pledged to stop commissioning new plants from 2023 and to be carbon neutral by 2050.

But it is already facing legal action over its slow progress and the resulting impacts on the health of Indonesians.

In 2021, activists and citizens won a lawsuit that found President Joko Widodo and top officials negligent in protecting Jakartans from pollution. 

The government lost its appeal but has filed another one to the Supreme Court.


Ms Cempaka Asriani blames poor air quality for the persistent cough her six-year-old son cannot shake.

“The government doesn’t appear to fully comprehend our rights and their obligations,” the 35-year-old told AFP.

“My feeling goes beyond anger. I am so disappointed that I feel hopeless.”