Wed, 14 May 2003

Government to free Indonesia from leaded gasoline by 2005

Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

After successfully introducing unleaded gasoline in Jakarta and surrounding towns, the government is now eying a more ambitious goal -- freeing the whole country from lead by 2005.

Lead -- a substance used to boost a car fuel's combustive power -- can cause respiratory problems, hypertension and heart attacks. It can also reduce children's intelligence.

State Minister for the Environment Nabiel Makarim said here on Tuesday that leaded gasoline would no longer be sold in Semarang, Central Java and Surabaya in East Java by August 2003 after the same measure was introduced in the Greater Jakarta area and Cirebon.

He also expressed the hope that Batam in Riau province would have unleaded gasoline by June 2003, while other cities in Indonesia would be free from leaded gasoline by January 2005.

"We really want to have cleaner air," Nabiel told reporters after launching a low emission competition here on Tuesday.

Bali began using unleaded gasoline in 2002, while Papua was free from lead a few years ago, Nabiel said.

According to a survey by the Environmental Impact Analysis Agency (Bapedal) in 2001, ambient air quality in ten big cities ranged from good to unhealthy. Air quality in Jakarta and Bandung ranged from moderate to unhealthy.

An earlier survey by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Bapedal in Greater Jakarta between 1995 and 1997 revealed that air pollution from transportation accounted for 70 percent of the total air pollution.

Nabiel claimed that his ministry had struck a deal with automotive producers to tighten vehicle emission standards to meet the world standard, namely the EURO 2, by 2005.

Deputy State Minister for the Environment in charge of Impact Management on Non-Institutional Sources Tanwir Yazid Mukawi said Tuesday that he was upbeat about meeting the target to free major cities in Java from lead this year due to upgrades at oil refineries in Balongan, West Java; Cilacap, Central Java and Plaju in South Sumatra.

"If we can cover major cities in Java, we will have 70 percent of the country's vehicles with unleaded gasoline," he told The Jakarta Post.

Vehicles operating in Jakarta and its surrounding cities, Cirebon in West Java, Semarang and Surabaya account for 70 percent of the country's cars.

To free all cities in the country from lead, he said, oil refineries in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, and in Dumai, Riau must also be upgraded to produce unleaded gasoline.

"Thus we expect that in January 2005, all cities in the country will be free from leaded gasoline," Tanwir said.

However, he said, the program was two years late from its original schedule to free the country from leaded gasoline by 2003.

M. Harun, state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina spokesman confirmed Tuesday that Pertamina had been supporting the government program to free the country from leaded gasoline.

"We have upgraded Kasim, Balongan and Plaju oil refineries. We wait for the completion of Cilacap oil refinery to provide unleaded gasoline," he told the Post.