From cloud seeding to vehicle curbs, Indonesia fights pollution ahead of Asian Games

Reuters 17 Jul 18;

JAKARTA (Reuters) - As Indonesia prepares to host thousands of competitors and fans at next month’s Asian Games, pollution concerns have flared following a spell of unhealthy air in Jakarta and forest fire hotspots near the second venue, Palembang in South Sumatra.

Traffic congestion in Indonesia’s sprawling capital of 10 million consistently ranks among the world’s worst, and it has long struggled to boost air quality, regularly rated as unsafe by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Organizers of the Asian Games, set to run from August 18 to September 2, drawing nearly 17,000 athletes and officials and more than 100,000 spectators, said they were working with city officials to tackle the pollution.

“It is expected that there will be better air quality at Asian games competition venues,” the organizers said in a statement on Tuesday.

Strategies being considered include wider curbs on private cars depending on whether their license-plate numbers are odd or even, creating special lanes for the sports event, and building gardens.

Indonesia is following a path blazed by other large Asian cities, such as Beijing, which adopted traffic curbs and closed factories to improve air during the 2008 Olympics.

Jakarta’s average score on the Air Quality Index (AQI) had exceeded 100 in the last week, said Budi Haryanto, an environmental health expert at the University of Indonesia.

“Air quality is unhealthy, and this with the odd and even vehicle plate policy,” he told Reuters.

By 11 a.m. on Tuesday, the air quality in Jakarta stood in the “unhealthy” range at 171, the Real-Time AQI Index showed.

“Since athletes need to give their maximum performance for the competition, a better AQI is a must,” said Haryanto, who felt the optimum would be less than 50.

Lung function is affected after over two months of daily exposure to an index reading below 200, Haryanto said, but gasoline emissions, a frequent pollutant in Jakarta, can be linked to cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, besides cancer.