As the most populated city in Indonesia, Jakarta still suffers from many social issues related to population density such as food shortages, inadequate public transportation and never-ending congestion. Some of the issues are directly related to air pollution in the city.
Jakarta is not only overcrowded with people and vehicles, but fast growing industries and manufactures also worsen the city’s air quality with pollution.
In 2013, the Central Bureau of Statistics released a report stating that there were more than 16 million vehicles in Jakarta which contributed to 70 percent of the city’s air pollution.
In addition, research related to gas emissions showed that motorized vehicles in the city used to emit 1.9 million tonnes of carbon. In recent years, this number escalated quickly to 5.6 million tonnes. If action is not taken to control the city’s air pollution, local organization Masyarakat Transportasi Indonesia, which deals with transportation emission issues, predicts that gas emissions produced by the transportation sector will reach 8.3 million tonnes by 2030.
According to Indonesian environmental institution Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia,
in 2015, Jakarta’s air pollution index reach 200 points for its air quality standard. This number indicated that Jakarta’s air is “unhealthy” for everyone who breathes in the city.
Jakarta’s polluted air contains several hazardous substances such as nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ground-level ozone, led, carbon monoxide and microscopic particles called particulate matter. Carbon monoxide is classified as a potential hazard to reproductive health.
Medical and Nursing Director of mother and children’s hospital Harapan Kita Dr. Didi Danukusumo Sp.OG stated that the number, movement and shape are important factors in determining the quality of men’s sperm. Thus, daily activities which expose Jakarta’s people to pollution can theoretically lower sperm quality for men who live there.
A separate study shows that women exposed to carbon monoxide during pregnancy have a higher rate of miscarriage. For men, it can results in abnormal production of sperm and genetic damage to reproductive cells.
This finding is confirmed by the results of Danukusumo’s own study, which shows that for men who are regularly exposed to polluted air for three consecutive months, 75 percent of their sperm is dead.
His data showed that traffic police, who are the subject of the study, suffer the damage of deteriorated sperm quality. For this reason, they are advised to wear masks to avoid inhaling polluted air when they are on duty.
Although carbon monoxide can not be seen or smelled, the amount can be reduced. As 70 percent of air pollution in Jakarta originates from car emissions, taking public transportation or commuting via bike can be one way to reduce air pollution. Aside from that, avoiding the use of aerosol products, recycling reusable things instead of burning them and not smoking are other ways to reduce the harmful effects of carbon monoxide.
The government could take action by immediately requiring state-owned Pertamina to replace low octane fuels such as premium (subsidized low quality gasoline) with high octane fuel such as pertamax. Additionally, the government could also focus on increasing the amount of public green spaces like parks and fields in the city.
In the meantime, however, citizens can use pollution masks and live healthier lifestyles by eating more vegetables and exercising regularly to combat the hazards of air pollution – including mutant sperm. Jakarta’s expats should not rely on the government or big businesses to solve the problem before they decide to have kids.