Indonesia to Move Capital from Jakarta amid Fears of Overcrowding

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (C) gestures next to Vice President Jusuf Kalla (R) and Minister of Agriculture and Land-Planning Sofyan Djalil (L) during a press conference about the new capital, at the presidential palace in Jakarta on August 26, 2019. - Indonesia has chosen the eastern edge of jungle-clad Borneo …

Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced long-awaited plans to relocate the country’s capital from the overcrowded metropolis of Jakarta to a site in sparsely populated East Kalimantan province on Borneo island, local media reported Wednesday.

Addressing a press conference on Monday, Widodo confirmed that the government would seek to pass legislation that will lead construction in the new capital next year.

“The government has conducted in-depth studies in the past three years and as a result of those studies the new capital will be built in part of North Penajam Paser regency and part of Kutai Kertanegara regency in East Kalimantan,” said Widodo.

Plans to move the capital from the island of Java were initially announced by the National Development Planning Agency head Bambang Brodjonegoro in April, although politicians have been discussing the idea for the past 70 years.

The new capital, located in a remote corner of Borneo Island, will transform a barely inhabited rainforest into the country’s center of government, while Jakarta would remain the country’s business and economic center. There has been opposition from environmentalists, who fear the project will lead to mass deforestation.

“The location is very strategic – it’s in the center of Indonesia and close to urban areas,” the president said in a televised speech. “The burden Jakarta is holding right now is too heavy as the center of governance, business, finance, trade, and services. We couldn’t continue to allow the burden on Jakarta and Java island to increase in terms of population density … Economic disparities between Java and elsewhere would also increase.”

There have long been major concerns raised over excessive population pressure placed on Jakarta, home to nearly 10 million people, including overcrowding and high pollution rates. Jakarta is one of the fastest sinking cities in the world, with experts predicting that it could be completely submerged by 2050.

Problems with overpopulation extend to the whole island of Java, which is home to around 141 million residents, over half of the country’s population. The island is also at a considerable earthquake risk, with the most recent quake occurring last month, although no major damage nor casualties were reported.

The plan is estimated to cost 466 trillion rupiah ($32.7 billion), around 19 percent of which would be funded by the government, while the rest would come from public-private partnerships and private investment. The cost also includes the construction of new government offices and homes for around 1.5 million civil servants.

“Within five years, we think there will be 200,000 to 300,000 people. Within 10 years, maybe the population will reach 1 million. And then after that 1.5 million,” Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro told Reuters. “We will manage the growth of the city so that it doesn’t wildly expand out of control.”

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