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Asia Minute: Jakarta’s Clean Air Lawsuit


One area where most of Hawaii scores well compared to many other locations in the world is air quality. It’s an increasing focus for many cities in the Asia Pacific, and in one place residents are actually suing the government.

31 residents of Indonesia’s capital city are suing the government for not doing enough to fight air pollution. They want a court to order the government to acknowledge the problem and take steps to deal with it.

Jakarta’s air quality consistently ranks among the worst in Southeast Asia with high levels of pollution known as PM 2.5 — particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometers — smaller than a fraction of the diameter of a human hair. By international standards, readings of less than 50 are considered “good,” while those below 100 are “moderate” and anything above 150 is “unhealthy.”

Late last month, Jakarta had a reading of 231 — in the range of “very unhealthy.”

One culprit, coal-fired power plants.

Greenpeace counts seven existing coal plants and five more that are planned — all within about 60 miles of Jakarta.

Traffic is another issue. The city government estimates there are three and a half million cars in Jakarta, along with 14 million motorcycles, with gasoline-powered vehicles increasing at a rate of 8% to 9% every year.

On Thursday, Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister defended the air in Jakarta — saying according to World Health Organization standards, the city’s air remains in the category of “moderate.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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