Dio Suhenda, Jakarta – As Greater Jakarta struggles to curb its perennial air pollution, the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry has called for a swift solution to combat the risk that upcoming sports events in the capital will face a slump in interest, particularly as the FIBA Basketball World Cup draws near.Over the past few weeks, residents of the capital and its satellite cities have bemoaned the worsening air quality, as Jakarta, notorious for its traffic congestion and overly packed neighborhoods, has topped Swiss company IQAir's ranking of the world's most polluted major cities for almost a week since Aug. 7.
To this end, Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno warned that Jakarta's pollution, aside from posing obvious health risks to local residents, could also threaten the success of upcoming sports events.
"In terms of tourism, there have already been a couple of events that have been impacted by [Jakarta's air pollution]," Sandiaga said at the Presidential Palace after a meeting convened by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo on Monday to discuss strategies to tackle pollution, Kompas.com reported.
Sandiaga cited a recent international marathon held in the Greater Jakarta area, whose organizers had complained of the poor air quality, as one example of how Jakarta's abysmal pollution is affecting sports tourism. He did not specify the name of the event or its organizer.
A potential slump in sports tourism is a particular concern for the budding sector, particularly as Jakarta will soon co-host world basketball's premier tournament, the FIBA basketball championship, alongside the Philippines and Japan.
Jakarta is set to host some of the group stage matches at the newly-built Indonesia Arena at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium from Aug. 25 until Sept. 3.
The Jakarta International Stadium is also scheduled to host on Nov. 10 the opening of the much-anticipated FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Sandiaga's office has been preparing vacation packages for those wanting to watch the two upcoming championships in Indonesia, in a bid to lure domestic and foreign tourists to the tournaments.
Sandiaga went on to say on Monday that if authorities fail to address Jakarta's pollution in a timely manner, more sports event organizers might start to reconsider holding their events in Jakarta.
"This will ultimately lead to a decrease in interest in traveling [to Indonesia], especially [to] the Greater Jakarta area," he added.
Following Monday's cabinet meeting, the government is considering a number of short and long-term strategies to address Jakarta's worsening pollution, which the President blamed on the exacerbated impacts of vehicle and industrial emissions caused by the prolonged dry season.
Among the proposed strategies is a work-from-home policy for up to half of the city's officials. Acting Jakarta Governor Heru Budi Hartono said that the city would also more tightly monitor environmental building standards and advise owners of cars with engine capacities of 2,400 cubic centimeters or greater to use the higher-octane RON-98 fuel.
Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi, meanwhile, said that the government is considering a four-in-one policy to be implemented in the Greater Jakarta area. This, he said, would encourage motorists to carpool in their commute in order to decrease the number of vehicles clogging the capital's thoroughfares.
Public health expert Tjandra Yoga Aditama warned that prolonged exposure to Jakarta's polluted air could cause a spike in new cases of respiratory diseases, such as upper respiratory tract infections and bronchitis, while also worsening the conditions of those already suffering from asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
COPD is a group of progressive and incurable diseases, such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which cause the lungs to become inflamed, damaged and narrowed, leading to obstructed airflow and breathing problems. It is mainly caused by tobacco smoke, either from active smoking or passive exposure to second-hand smoke, and prolonged exposure to air pollution.
"[Health authorities] need to conduct proper surveillance to assess the health complications from time to time as Jakarta's pollution worsens," Tjandra said on Monday. "[They] also need to [be ready] to handle health problems, be it in the short or long term.