Bayu Marhaenjati & Lenny Tristia Tambun, Jakarta – The Jakarta administration is mulling over a plan to extend its limited road ban on cars based on their number plates, known as the "odd-even" policy, to more major thoroughfares in the capital and also increase parking fees by the end of this year.
The moves are part of a multi-pronged instruction issued by Governor Anies Baswedan to battle air pollution in the capital city, which in the past few weeks has deteriorated so much to become one of the worst among the world's major cities.
"Our priority is to extend the odd-even road rule immediately, before the dry season ends," Syafrin Liputo, the head of the Jakarta Transportation Agency, said on Friday.
AirVisual, which tracks air quality from cheap censors it sells to individuals and organizations, puts Jakarta among the top three cities with the worst air quality in the world in the past few weeks.
Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency said pollutants from vehicle exhaust and dust from various infrastructure projects in the capital are accumulating in the air as days go by without rain.
A total of 84 micrograms of fine particulate matter – smaller than 2.5 micrometers – were found in each square cubic meter of air in Jakarta during the most polluted days in the past month.
When inhaled, particulate matter can stay in people's lung, bloodstream and even brain. Studies have linked particulate matter to a range of respiratory illnesses, heart problems and decline in cognitive functions.
Syafrin said the administration is completing a comprehensive study of the new policies before launching them to the public.
Some suggest that Jakarta should not only apply the odd-even number plate rule on more roads in the city but also start to impose it on its millions of motorcycles.
"Instead of taking public transportation, Jakartans ride motorbikes instead," Chief Comr. Yusuf, the National Police's road traffic director, said on Friday.
Syafrin said the administration has already planned a study on the feasibility of imposing the odd-even rule on motorcycles.
Governor Anies on Thursday issued an official instruction to tackle pollution problems in the capital. Apart from extending the odd-even rule, Anies also instructed the city government to try to do more to persuade Jakartans to use public transportation, including by raising parking fees in the city.
"We are reviewing this. The governor said that as soon as there is an adequate public transportation system that people are happy with, we should increase parking fees as an instrument of traffic control," Syafrin said.
Anies' instructions also included an order to cull public buses older than 10 years old by next year and a restriction to ban private cars older than 10 years old from Jakarta's roads by 2025.
The governor also indicated he wanted to expand the city's public bus network, plant more trees, tighten emission test on private vehicles, improve and expand the city's sidewalks, tighten monitoring on manufacturing plants' emissions and install more solar panels on government buildings.
The Jakarta governor's instructions came as the city administration began fighting a lawsuit from several environmental organizations for failing to deal with the worsening air quality in the capital.
A group of 31 Jakarta residents had filed the citizen lawsuit, demanding that the city administration, along with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, the Environment Ministry, the Internal Affairs Ministry, the Health Ministry, Banten provincial government and West Java provincial government take real action against air pollution.
The first hearing was scheduled for Thursday but was postponed because the city administration had failed to submit all their documents.
Ayu Eza Tiara, the member of an advocacy team that launched the lawsuit, said it was the culmination of local environmentalists' effort to push the Jakarta administration to take action against air pollution.
"We knew from three years ago that the air quality in Jakarta has always been among the top 10 worst in the world," Ayu said on Thursday.
"We've tried many times to tell the government about the problem. But they always went on the defensive and said the air quality was fine," Ayu said.