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Indonesia to Build New Capital City in Borneo as Jakarta Sinks Into the Sea

Indonesia could soon begin construction of a new capital city, which will be built in the province of East Kalimantan, Borneo.

According to The Guardian, Indonesian president Joko Widodo told a press conference on Monday: “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.”

Indonesian presidents have been saying the capital should be moved for decades, but now it seems it will actually happen. The government must first create a bill, and this will need to be approved by the House of Representatives. If successful, construction may begin in 2020, with the aim of moving government offices by 2024.

In a televised speech, the president cited numerous reasons for the move, including relieving the current burden from Jakarta and creating a more centralized geographical location within Indonesia.

“The location is very strategic — it’s in the center of Indonesia and close to urban areas,” Widodo said. “The burden Jakarta is holding right now is too heavy as the center of governance, business, finance, trade and services.”

Approximately 30 million people live in the wider Jakarta area, which has led to the city having some of the worst traffic congestion in the world, along with deteriorating levels of air pollution.

Jakarta is also sinking. Northern areas of the capital have sunk four meters below sea level at an estimated rate of 20 centimeters each year. Experts predict that one-third of the city will be underwater by 2050. Authorities are trying to deal with the issue by creating a giant sea wall.

Many have expressed concern about the potential environmental consequences of constructing the new capital on the island of Borneo, where palm oil plantations have already harmed native rainforests.

Indonesia’s planning minister, Bambang Brodjonegoro, tried to allay concerns. “We will not disturb any existing protected forest, instead we will rehabilitate it. Initially, we need 40,000 hectares of land, and it is expandable to 180,000,” he said, as reported by South China Morning Post.

It is unusual for a country to move its capital city, but not unheard of. Myanmar announced Naypyidaw as the nation’s new capital in 2005, while Australia also chose Canberra as its capital in 1911 for similar geographical reasons to Indonesia.

[Photo via Flickr user BlogDino]

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