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The polluted, sinking capital of Indonesia is moving to a new city
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The polluted, sinking capital of Indonesia is moving to a new city

Jakarta is congested, polluted and prone to earthquakes. It is also rapidly sinking into Java Sea. The Indonesian government is moving the capital to Borneo.

President Joko Widoso envisions a new capital being built as a solution for Jakarta’s problems. This will allow the country’s population to be reduced and allow it to start over.

Widodo declared last week that “the construction of the capital city is not just a physical move by government offices,” ahead of parliament’s approval. “The main goal is to create a smart, modern city, that is globally competitive, and to help Indonesia transform into an innovative, green economy. Sceptics are concerned about the potential environmental impacts of building a sprawling 256,000-hectare city (990-miles) in Borneo’s East Kalimantan region. This is the home to orangutans, leopards, and other wildlife. The ambitious project has also been financed by USD 34 billion amid a pandemic.

Dwi Sawung from the WALHI environmental organization stated that the strategic environmental study of the new capital shows that there are at most three fundamental problems.

She said that there were threats to water systems, risks of climate change, threats for flora or fauna, as well as threats of pollution and damage to the environment.

Widodo’s plan for Nusantara, an old Javanese term that means ”archipelago,’ was first proposed in 2019. It will involve building housing and government buildings from scratch. Initial estimates indicated that 1.5 million (15 lakh), civil servants would relocate to the city, located approximately 2,000 km northeast of Jakarta. However, ministries and government agencies continue to work to finalize that number.

It will be situated in the vicinity Balikpapan, East Kalimantan’s seaport with approximately 700,000.

Indonesia is an archipelago country with more than 17,000 islands. However, 54% of Indonesia’s 270 million people (27 crore) live in Java, the country’s most populous island and where Jakarta is.

Jakarta is home of approximately 10 million (one-hundred thousand) people, and three times the number in the greater metropolitan region.

It has been described by many as the most rapidly sinking city in the world. It is currently estimated that one-third could be submerged in 2050. Uncontrolled groundwater extraction is the main cause, but it has been exacerbated due to rising Java Sea as a result of climate change.

Its air and groundwater are extremely polluted. It floods frequently and its streets are so jammed that congestion costs the economy USD 4 billion per year.

Indonesia will follow the same path as other countries in building a capital purpose-built.

Abu Dhabi’s crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is no stranger to ambitious building projects in the United Arab Emirates, leads the committee that oversees construction. It also includes Masayoshi son, the billionaire founder of SoftBank and former prime minister Tony Blair, who runs the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

The state will finance 19% of the project. The rest will come from cooperation between government and business entities, direct investment by state-run businesses and the private sector.

Basuki Hadimuljono, Public Works and Housing Minister, stated that initial planning was completed by clearing 56,180 hectares (138.800 acres) of land for the presidential palace, national parliament and government offices. There are also roads linking the capital with other cities in East Kalimantan.

Hadimulijono stated that the goal is to complete the core government area by 2024. Current plans call for approximately 8,000 civil servants moving to the city by then. Widodo stated previously that he expected the Presidential Palace to be moved to the new capital by 2024. This would include the home, foreign, and defense ministries as well as the state secretariat.

The entire process of relocation is expected to be completed in 2045.

It is unclear what the impact it will have on Jakarta, and those who remain behind, said Agus Pumbagio, a public-policy expert from the University of Indonesia. He urged that anthropologists are brought in to study this issue.

He stated that there would be significant social changes for civil servants as well as society in general and local residents.

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