Indonesia is moving its capital from Jakarta to Borneo. Why is it a concern?

Jakarta is overcrowded, polluted, vulnerable to earthquakes and rapidly sinking into the Java Sea. Now the government is preparing to leave the capital of Indonesia, moving it to the island of Borneo. Indonesian officials say the new metropolis will be a “sustainable forest city” that puts the environment at the center of development and aims to be carbon-neutral by 2045.

But environmentalists have warned that the capital would lead to massive deforestation, threaten the habitat of endangered species such as orangutans and endanger the homes of indigenous communities.

While access to the site of the new capital is generally limited, The Associated Press was allowed to visit parts of the site in early March to see the progress of construction.

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Here’s a look at why the capital is moving forward, the government’s plans and why activists are concerned about how it will affect the environment, endangered species and indigenous communities near the project site.

Why is Indonesia changing its capital?

Jakarta is home to about 10 million people and the greater metropolitan area has three times that number. It has been described as the world’s fastest-sinking city, and at the current rate, it is estimated that a third of the city could be submerged by 2050. Rise of the Java Sea due to climate change.

Its air and groundwater are highly polluted, it floods regularly and its streets are so congested that its estimated congestion costs the economy $4.5 billion a year.

President Joko Widodo envisions building a new capital to make up for the problems plaguing Jakarta, reducing its population while allowing the country to start fresh with a “sustainable city”.

What will the new capital be like?

Widodo’s plan to establish the city of Nusantara – an old Javanese word meaning “archipelago” – would house government buildings and housing built from scratch. Initial estimates were that more than 1.5 million civil servants would be transferred to the city, about 2,000 kilometers (1,240 mi) northeast of Jakarta, although ministries and government agencies are still working to finalize that number. Is doing.

Bambang Susantono, head of the Nusantara National Capital Authority, said the new capital city would implement the “forest city” concept, with 65% of the area being reforested.

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The city is expected to be inaugurated on August 17 next year, on the occasion of Indonesia’s Independence Day. New capital officials said the final phases of the city, however, would likely not be completed until 2045, which would mark the country’s centennial.

Why are environmentalists worried?

However, skeptics worry about the environmental impact of building the sprawling 256,000-hectare (990-sq-mile) city in Borneo’s East Kalimantan province, which is home to orangutans, leopards and a wide range of other wildlife.

Forest Watch Indonesia, an Indonesian non-governmental organization that monitors forestry issues, warned in a November 2022 report that most of the forested areas in the new capital are “production forests”, meaning that forestry and extraction activities are used. Permits can be given for this which will encourage further deforestation. , The report states that as of now there is no certainty about the protection status of the remaining natural forests in the new capital city region.

AP’s data analysis also showed that extreme heatwave days can be expected over the region in the coming years.

How are indigenous communities affected?

At least five villages with more than 100 indigenous Balik people are being relocated due to the construction, with further villages expected to be uprooted as the building site expands.

The government said the new capital has received support from local community leaders, and has provided compensation to those whose land is being used for the city.

But Sibukdin, an indigenous leader who, like many in the country, uses only one name and lives in Sepaku, a ward very close to the construction zone, said community members have refused to accept the money offered by the government. felt compelled to, without knowing how much the compensation was calculated or if it was fair, he said.

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