Indonesia Is Changing Its Capital Because of Jakarta's Unsolvable Problems

Jakarta is polluted, congested and susceptible to earthquakes.
Loukia Papadopoulos
A flooded area in Jakarta.AsianDream/iStock

Pretty soon it won't just be Indonesia's Navy submarine that will have disappeared. Its capital city Jakarta is also sinking quickly.

Indonesia is looking to replace its capital city because it is very polluted, congested, susceptible to earthquakes, and quickly sinking, according to the Associated Press. The country now aims to build a more sustainable, cleaner, and resilient capital city.

A smart new city

“The construction of the new capital city is not merely a physical move of government offices,” President Joko Widodo said ahead of parliament’s approval of the plan last week according to the Associated Press. “The main goal is to build a smart new city, a new city that is competitive at the global level, to build a new locomotive for the transformation ... toward an Indonesia based on innovation and technology based on a green economy.”

The concept for this shiny new city is not entirely new. It was first introduced back in 2019. The ambitious development would see the rise of a city called Nusantara (an old Javanese term meaning “archipelago”).

Nusantara would be located 2,000 km (1242 miles) northeast of Jakarta in Borneo’s East Kalimantan province. To populate the city and make sure it runs appropriately, 1.5 million civil servants would have to relocate from Jakarta.

Environmental groups not on board

However, not all are on board with Widodo's new plans. Environmental groups worry that the new city may disturb the orangutans, leopards, and other wildlife that already live there. There is also the fact that the new development would cost a whopping $34 billion, a price much too high to pay during an already costly pandemic.

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“There are threats to water systems and risks of climate change, threats to flora and fauna, and threats of pollution and environmental damage,” Dwi Sawung, an official with the WALHI environmental group, said to the Associated Press.

Jakarta, housing approximately 10 million people, has often been described as the world’s most rapidly sinking city. Widodo's plans to avoid the city's continuously rising problems may seem like a good idea at first glance but they could simply transfer Jakarta's issues to a whole new location.

There is also the question of what would happen to Jakarta's residents that can't relocate to the new city. Would they be left to tackle Jakarta's many problems on their own without any help or interference from the government? It seems that more studies need to be done before Widodo's plans can go forward with certainty.