Air Pollution: Economic Impacts and Steps Towards Clean Air

Direktur Eksekutif IESR, Fabby Tumiwa

Jakarta, October 5, 2023 – Air pollution is a major environmental challenge society faces today. With increased industrial activity, population growth, and human mobility, air pollutants have drastically increased, causing severe impacts on human health and ecosystems. The Executive Director of the Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR), Fabby Tumiwa, emphasized that air pollution is a significant issue that also has an economic impact. For instance, when someone falls sick and cannot work, they lose the opportunity to earn money. Similarly, when the same person has to visit the doctor, they lose a lot of money. 

“Air pollution significantly impacts the economy at a national level.  In Jakarta, we have tracked the days with clear blue skies over the past decade. However, there has yet to be a comprehensive study on the national level. The government must conduct such a study to determine the economic impact of air pollution, including the loss of productive days due to illnesses caused by exposure to pollutants. By taking proactive measures, we can work towards cleaner air and a healthier workforce, thereby ensuring a positive impact on our economy,” explained Fabby Tumiwa in a Special Stage program entitled Synergistic Efforts in Overcoming Air Pollution, which was broadcast on TV One on Thursday (5/10/2023).

Quoting data from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK), Fabby said three sources mainly cause air pollution in Jakarta. Vehicles account for 44%, Coal-fired power plants (CFPP) located around Jakarta account for 34%, and the remaining percentage comes from household burning and other activities. These sources produce different types of pollutants, with transportation being the largest source of PM2.5 and PM10. Agricultural activities and open burning also contribute significantly to PM. Furthermore, sulfur dioxide (SO2) is produced by 93% of power plants.

“Air pollution is a serious issue that needs to be tackled effectively. It is important to understand the different pollutants that contribute to air pollution. However, it is equally important to address the root cause of the problem, such as the smoke emitted from vehicle exhausts. This means that we need to reduce the amount of pollutants released into the air by reducing the use of fossil fuels. Encouraging people to use public and eco-friendly modes of transportation like bicycles can help achieve this goal. Besides that, the fuel quality also plays a crucial role in reducing air pollution. Fuel with higher quality emits fewer pollutants, which needs to be adopted as the standard. Unfortunately, Indonesia’s fuel quality is still below the EURO 4 standard,” said Fabby Tumiwa.

A researcher from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Indonesia (FK UI), Erlina Burhan, mentioned that there has been an increase in cases of acute respiratory infections or ISPA in the Jabodetabek area, which is believed to be caused by high levels of PM 2.5 pollutants. Erlina, who works at Persahabatan Hospital, has observed a growth of about 20% in the number of patients treated for ISPA, which could even increase by 30% during specific periods. Therefore, Erlina Burhan stresses the importance of clean air quality as it directly affects people’s lives.

“We have no control over the air we breathe. If the air contains pollutants, it can harm our health. Although our respiratory system has a natural filtration system to prevent harmful particles from entering our lungs, there are tiny particles that are too small to be filtered. These small particles can directly enter our respiratory tract and cause harm,” explained Erlina Burhan.

Erlina Burhan has appealed to people to take their health seriously, especially regarding air pollution. She suggests checking the air quality index before engaging in outdoor activities. If the index shows red, it is advisable to avoid outdoor activities. Erlina Burhan recommends a comprehensive approach to dealing with air pollution. This approach should not be limited to a single sector, such as transportation, conducting emission tests, or promoting the use of electric vehicles. Instead, it should involve concrete policies collaborating with all parties to overcome air pollution.

“Although many regulations have been implemented, their implementation seems lacking. For instance, smoking regulations have been in effect for a long time, yet individuals are still observed smoking in public areas. This highlights that monitoring and evaluation of regulations are not functioning effectively,” said Erlina Burhan.