Indonesia Is Moving Its Capital From Sinking Jakarta To Borneo

The country's political center is literally being crushed under the weight of overpopulation and over-extraction of groundwater.

Facing insurmountable crowding and sinking in its capital city of Jakarta, Indonesia has officially committed to the mammoth endeavor of moving the country’s political center to the jungle island of Borneo.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo made the announcement Monday, months after he first said he was considering the undertaking in light of the country’s congestion and environmental issues.

“The most ideal location of the new capital city is North Penajam Paser Regency and part of the Kutai Kertanegara Regency in East Kalimantan,” he said, according to CNN Indonesia. That part of Borneo, which is known mainly for its beaches and lush but threatened orangutan habitats, is close to the semi-developed cities of Balikpapan and Samarinda.

Widodo highlighted the planned area in a tweet Monday morning. 

The estimated $34 billion transition is an expensive solution to a problem largely of the country’s own doing. Though rising sea levels linked to climate change are a major threat to Indonesia, Jakarta has exacerbated the issue by over-extracting groundwater and elevating flood risk. Decades of poor environmental policy, urban planning and attempts at wastewater management have left the city with water so contaminated, it can’t be treated for consumption. 

To make matters more dire, the extremely populous city is literally being crushed under the weight of its growing 10.6 million-person population. 

Studies published earlier this year, The Asean Post reported, warned that more than a quarter of Jakarta’s 255 square miles will be plunged under water within a decade. 

Though Widodo’s administration has vowed to build the new capital in just five years and without razing any protected rainforest, his environmental policy is dubious. Just last month, he announced that Indonesia will tackle its massive plastic waste crisis by building new incinerators to burn the trash for electricity. That decision comes in spite of warnings from conservation groups that burning plastic emits toxic and deadly chemicals such as dioxins, mercury and microparticles.

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