(ORDO NEWS) — Jakarta is congested, polluted, prone to earthquakes and is rapidly sinking into the Java Sea. Now the government is going to leave it and move the country’s capital to the island of Borneo.
President Joko Widodo sees the construction of a new capital as a panacea for Jakarta’s problems, reducing its population and allowing the country to start over with a clean slate, creating a “sustainable city” with good public transport, integrated into the natural environment and located in a disaster-free area.
“Building a new capital is not just a physical relocation of government offices,” Widodo said last week before the plan was approved by Parliament. “The main goal is to build a smart new city, a new city that is globally competitive, build a new locomotive for transformation … into an Indonesia based on innovation and technology, based on a green economy.”
Skeptics, however, are worried about the environmental impact of building a sprawling 256,000-hectare (990 sq mi) city in Borneo’s East Kalimantan province, home to orangutans, leopards and a host of other wildlife, as well as a $34 billion investment for an ambitious project in a global environment. pandemics.
“The strategic environmental study of the new capital shows that there are at least three major problems,” said Dwi Sawung, of WALHI’s environmental group.
“There are threats to water systems and risks of climate change, threats to flora and fauna, and threats of pollution and damage to the environment,” she said.
First proposed in 2019, Widodo’s plan to create the city of Nusantara – an old Javanese term for “archipelago” – would entail building government buildings and housing from scratch. The city, 2,000 kilometers northeast of Jakarta, is initially estimated to have about 1.5 million government employees relocated, although ministries and government agencies are still working to refine that number.
It will be located near Balikpapan, the seaport of East Kalimantan with a population of about 700,000.
Indonesia is an archipelago country of over 17,000 islands, but currently 54% of its over 270 million people live in Java, the country’s most populous island, where Jakarta is located.
About 10 million people live in Jakarta itself, and three times as many in the major metropolitan area.
It has been named the fastest sinking city in the world, and at current rates, it is estimated that a third of the city could be flooded by 2050. The main reason for this is the uncontrolled extraction of groundwater, but the situation is exacerbated by the rise in the level of the Java Sea as a result of climate change.
In addition, the air and groundwater are heavily polluted, the city regularly floods, and its streets are so cluttered that traffic jams are estimated to cost the economy $4.5 billion a year.
By building a purpose-built capital, Indonesia will follow a path that other countries have already followed, including Pakistan, Brazil and Myanmar.
The committee overseeing the construction is chaired by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is no stranger to ambitious building projects at home in the United Arab Emirates. It also includes Masayoshi Son, the billionaire founder and CEO of Japanese holding company SoftBank, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who currently runs the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.
Public funds will pay for 19% of the project, and the rest will be received as a result of cooperation between the government and commercial structures, as well as direct investments from state companies and the private sector.
Public Works and Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono said initial planning was done by clearing 56,180 hectares (138,800 acres) of land for the construction of a presidential palace, national parliament and government offices, as well as roads linking the capital to other cities in East Kalimantan.
According to Khadimulijono, the main government area should be built by 2024. It is currently planned that about 8,000 civil servants will move to the city by this time.
Widodo has previously said he expects the presidential palace to be transferred to the new capital before the end of his second term in 2024, along with the ministries of the interior, foreign affairs, defense and the secretariat of state.
The entire relocation process is scheduled to be completed by 2045.
What impact this will have on Jakarta and the people that will remain remains unclear, said Agus Pambaggio, a public policy expert at the University of Indonesia, who called for anthropologists to be brought in to study the issue.
“There will be very big social changes, both for people working as civil servants, and for society as a whole and local residents,” he said.
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