Jakarta, IO – Poor air quality in urban areas is detrimental to human health, yet it has been pervasive for so many years. In the past week, this issue has massively hit the headlines.
Air pollution’s adverse effects may include central nervous system diseases, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and impaired lung function, headaches and anxiety, eye, nose and throat irritation, heart disease, liver, spleen and blood diseases and reproductive system disorders (WHO Global Air Quality Guidelines).
Air pollution in Jakarta usually increases during the dry season – this year, from June to August. The major sources of pollutants are the transportation sector (44%) and the industrial sector (31%). The issue of sustainable transportation is crucial but has never been taken seriously.
The Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s 2022 data reveals that approximately 25.5 million registered vehicles are used in Jakarta, 78% of which are motorcycles. Motorbikes produce the highest pollution per passenger, compared to petrol and diesel private cars, passenger cars or buses. Vehicle efficiency is imperative. Thus, people taking the bus will make a considerably lower CO2 contribution than those riding motorcycles or driving private cars.
Policies that have been implemented do not seem to be interconnected or last long. Electronic road pricing (ERP) could have been a major and vital policy, yet it has not been pursued.
Meanwhile, public transportation has not been seriously developed in buffer cities such as Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi (Bodetabek). The new Trans Pakuan Bus has only recently started operating in Bogor City. Thousands of residential areas in Bodetabek do not have adequate access to public transportation. The “one-package” policy to build a housing area with its public transport facility is no longer implemented. What happens now, house buyers must also think about buying private vehicles to help their mobility. Consequently, living expenses rise because their monthly income is spent not only on paying home loan installments but also on vehicle loan installments.
The state is believed to have an ample budget to overcome the poor air quality in cities. The fact is that the Government, through the Ministry of Industry, has electric vehicle incentive schemes for 2023 and 2024 of IDR 12.3 trillion. IDR 5.6 trillion is allocated for 800,000 electric motorbikes, IDR 6.5 trillion for 143,449 electric cars and IDR 192 billion for purchasing 552 electric buses.
The incentive for electric motorbikes in 2023 amounts to IDR 1.4 trillion for 200,000 units; in 2024, it will be IDR 4.2 trillion for 600,000 units. The incentive for electric cars in 2023 is IDR 1.6 trillion for 35,862 units; in 2024, it will be IDR 4.9 trillion for 107,587 units. The incentive to purchase electric buses in 2023 is IDR 48 billion to buy 138 units; in 2024, it will be IDR 144 billion for 414 units.
Other countries also have an electric vehicle incentive or subsidy policy for private vehicles – but only after providing decent public transportation services. However, the same cannot be said for Indonesia, which faces public transportation and road accident crises. The electric vehicle policy is supposed to alleviate the two crises. Yet, apparently, the incentive policy will only exacerbate an ongoing problem: traffic congestion.
Let’s take a lesson from the Jabodetabek Commuter Line. Before 2013, it had extremely poor service. It could only transport an average of 350 thousand passengers per day. After massive improvements in many aspects, within five years, the number of passengers it could serve skyrocketed to 1.1 million in 2018. The improvements include improved punctuality and reliability, trains stopping at every station, more affordable fares, improved services and clean stations free from street hawkers. Sales inside the train are now prohibited, the stations are sterilized from unauthorized visitors, the payment system is friendlier, and there is no more lining up to buy tickets. Information about train schedules is easily accessible, physical integration is available at every station, and security is provided during the trip. Lastly, no more people perch on the train’s roof, the cars are always clean, passengers’ complaints are immediately addressed, and services for persons with disabilities are continuously improved.
The policy to improve public transportation does not only apply to Jakarta but also its buffer zones, Bodetabek. The regional budget of Jakarta Province, given annually to the local governments in Bodetabek, should focus on improving public transportation services in their respective areas.
The lack of coordination
Due to the lack of coordination between the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Transportation, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and the Ministry of Home Affairs, policies to solve air pollution in urban areas are never thorough.
Each ministry moves individually, disregarding the actual data and facts. As a consequence, the state budget is far from being effective and misses its target.