Indonesia to Relocate Capital Due to Climate Change

Katherine Dorrer
Staff Writer

On January 18, Indonesia’s parliament passed a bill to relocate the nation’s capital from Jakarta to the jungle island of Borneo, with the new city’s name to be Nusantara. The move, according to BBC News, will cost an estimated 466 trillion rupiah, or roughly $32.4 billion. The bill passed by approvals from eight factions, with one faction rejecting, according to Indonesian House Representative Puan Maharani.

The need for a new capital city has been long overdue, as the overpopulated city of Jakarta has been sinking fast due to rising sea levels and excess groundwater extraction. Discussion for the relocation of this city dates back to 1945 as well as more recently in 2014 under President Yudhoyono’s administration.

Indonesia is one of the most vulnerable nations to the increasing sea levels and other weather-related disasters that can destroy infrastructure. According to Climate Links, Indonesia is home to 42 million people who live across the 81,000 km of coastline in the low-lying land, only a few meters above sea level. Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR) emphasizes that Indonesia’s climate action was “highly insufficient” as fossil fuel usage climbed to 82 percent in 2020, making the energy sector one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gases. In addition, the National Disaster Management Agency and IESR says that 7 out of 10 disasters are hydrometeorological.

With the challenges facing Jakarta, President Joko Widodo believes that Indonesia needs to start fresh with the relocation of a new sustainable city. To him, “the main goal is to build a smart new city, a new city that is competitive at the global level,” according to Los Angeles Times. The name Nusantara translates to “archipelago,” instilling a sense of “unity in diversity,” chosen by the president, reports This Week in Asia. The government also hopes relocating the capital will increase economic activity and development while showcasing the technological progress of the nation.

Critics have raised questions about the relocation, arguing that it will have negative impacts on both the environment and indigenous people living in the region. With an area of rich wildlife and biodiversity, the construction of this city may lead to the expansion of the logging and palm-oil industry within the virgin land region. According to the Ministry of Development Planning, it is estimated that the relocation will require land equivalent to the size of New York City, about 60,000-100,000 hectares or 230-400 square miles. That being said, the deforestation of an area that vast would potentially release 48 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The idea of relocating the Indonesian capital in order to mitigate the effects of climate change on Jakarta may create more environmental issues for the country in the future.

To Planning Minister Suharso Monoarfa, this new capital city project is “a symbol of the identity of the nation, as well as a new center of economic gravity,” The Washington Post reports. The first stage is expected to begin in 2022 and run through 2024, with construction to last until 2045.

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