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964 Views 1 Reply 1 Participant Last post by  Alvin
I thought I might as well make a start thread to post related news and discuss environmental issues of concern to all of us :D

Cleaning up Jakarta's air

Jakarta's clean air campaigners seem to be making some headway in their long, uphill fight against pollution. At long last, the city fathers have begun to show some unmistakable signs of discomfort at having the nation's capital rated the third-most polluted city in the world, after Mexico City and Bangkok. Now, steps are in the planning to cut the city's air pollution rate, although, it must be admitted, not everyone will be happy.

After an initial almost year-long trial and education period, smoking in public places will be prohibited as of next year. Lest they lose some of their tobacco-puffing clientele, however, hotels, malls, cafes and restaurants will still be allowed to tolerate smokers, as long as they do their puffing in restricted smoking areas.

But while all this will no doubt please Jakarta's growing numbers of non-smokers, the main target of the anti-pollution drive will be the roads, or rather what moves on them: the 1.5 million cars -- not to mention the choking black smoke billowing from thousands of city buses -- and the blue fog from the 3 million motorbikes that not only throw Jakarta's traffic into a state of disorder every day of the year, but also contribute to some 80 percent of the city's air pollution.

Now, public demands are being voiced for City Hall to require public transportation operators to use compressed natural gas (CNG) instead of gasoline for the fleets -- those vehicles, presumably, that pass the emission tests that will be mandatory for all motor vehicles on the city roads as of next year. Gas, it is presumed, gives off less pollution and could in the final instance be cheaper than gasoline.

The idea of switching from gasoline to CNG as fuel for cars has been around for several decades. The recent hike in the prices of fossil fuels has only served to infuse new life into an old proposition. In principle, of course, such a switch is to be commended, especially since Indonesia has large reserves of natural gas.

The catch is that replacing a gasoline engine with a new CNG run-device is not as easy and involves a lot of work. Obviously, gasoline tanks will have to be taken out and replaced by high pressure cylinders, and cars will need converter kits, which can cost anywhere from Rp 7 million to 9 million for vans and sedans, and Rp 20 million for larger vehicles, such as trucks and buses, a price that depends mainly on their cylinder volume.

Once these are installed, the new equipment needs routine maintenance by specially trained technicians at specialist workshops.

However, right now in all of Jakarta, only one properly functioning CNG workshop currently exists.

Obviously, these costs are beyond the means of the vast majority of Jakartans who are also unlikely to want to change over their vehicles if it involves long delays or hassles. So, laudable as the idea may be, it is apparent that other alternatives may have to be found to stimulate the awareness of Jakartans of the advantages and importance to living in a clean and healthy environment. For now, it would seem that the most effective way of ensuring a successful cleaning up of the city's air is by urging Jakartans to comply, fully and unconditionally, with the emission testing requirements.

Understandably, many people stand to be inconvenienced by the city's new clean-air regulations, even though an earlier proposal to limit the age of cars -- to 10 years for private vehicles and 15 years for buses and larger vehicles -- has been scrapped in recognition of the fact that not all Jakartans can afford to trade in their old cars for newer ones. However, inescapably, some inconvenience seems to be the price that Jakartans will have to pay to keep the air they breathe at least tolerably clean.

Jakarta simply cannot go on accommodating a 7 percent annual growth in the number of motor vehicles on its roads -- not, that is, unless they are willing to see the city strangled and suffocated in an unending tangle of cars and motorbikes by 2010, as has been projected. Something, indeed, must be done. To be effective, however, any measure taken must factor in the realities in which the capital's citizenry lives and works.
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When I was in Jakarta a while ago, there was a huge fuss about that anti-smoking regulation which will take effect next year with a penalty of Rp50 million = US$5000+ or imprisonment of 1 year (?). With the average blue collar worker in Jakarta earning less than Rp1 million a month, you gotta think how feasible /appropriate it is ...

I personally think this is one of the most stupid and non-sense regulations because I wonder what proportion of the population can actually afford to pay US$5000 for a fine...I think the vast majority of people would have no option but go to jail if this regulation is enforced strictly (or alternatively pay bribes to the police).

I heard that in Singapore the penalty is the equivalent of about US$500 only...and Singapore's GDP/capita is like 25X ours'......
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