Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, is sinking at an alarming rate. Researchers predict that a quarter of the city will be underwater by 2050. The root cause of the problem is the city’s over-reliance on groundwater wells. The majority of the population relies on these wells, which were established during the Dutch colonial period. The Dutch named the city Batavia and built it with canals to reduce flooding and segregate the population. This colonial infrastructure remained even after Indonesia’s independence, and as Jakarta grew, the canals were paved over by streets, skyscrapers went up, and soon the city was polluted, overpopulated, and flooding regularly.
The Indonesian government has been considering moving the capital for a few decades. In 2019, President Joko Widodo finally approved a $33 billion plan to build a new capital, called Nusantara, on the east coast of Borneo. The move is meant to shift the economic weight off of Jakarta and develop Indonesia’s economy in historically neglected regions.
Nusantara is expected to be roughly twice the size of New York City and cover over 2,500 square kilometers in the province of East Kalimantan. The area is currently covered in eucalyptus plantations, so the new capital wouldn’t be tearing into protected forest. In the government’s plan, Nusantara will be a green, hyperconnected digital utopia in the middle of a lush landscape. It’ll be entirely fueled by renewable sources, have highly accessible public transportation, and 75% of it will be covered in green spaces.
However, the move will displace indigenous people, who make up 20% of Indonesia’s population. At least 20,000 people from 21 indigenous groups are at risk. Property prices are already surging in nearby Balikpapan, and indigenous residents are feeling short-changed. Borneo is also home to many endangered species, including the Proboscis monkey, Bornean gibbon, and Sunda pangolin. The Bornean orangutan in particular has faced massive population decreases and will be severely affected by the new capital. East Kalimantan is rapidly losing its forest to industries like oil palm and logging. Also disappearing are mangrove and peatlands, which are important carbon sinks. Scientists are worried about the impact of the indirect carbon and ecological footprint, which could extend 200km from the center.
The government is constructing five hydropower stations on the Kayan river to speed up industrialization. President Widodo is planning the world’s biggest green industrial park north of Nusantara. Indonesia has the world’s largest nickel reserves, and as Elon Musk has made very clear, we’ll need a lot of it for those batteries. The new capital will be a part of this whole regional development plan. Four of Indonesia’s five biggest coal plants are in East Kalimantan. This means that much of the energy sourced for building the capital will come from there.
Nusantara’s green plans look great on paper, but there’s just one… very large bummer. Only 11.5% of Indonesia’s national energy is currently renewable. The government has included solar and wind in its plans for Nusantara, but what’s the concrete blueprint of its energy scheme? No one knows.
Brasilia, Myanmar’s Naypyidaw, Nigeria’s Abuja, and New Delhi are examples of cities built from scratch that have had mixed results. They start out with lofty utopian goals, but often fall short of them, and always come at a steep cost to the environment and locals.
The move to a new capital city in Indonesia, while ambitious, presents a significant challenge for the government. There are many factors to consider, from environmental concerns to the potential displacement of indigenous people. It is also important to note that many other countries are currently undertaking similar projects, such as Egypt, South Korea, and Equatorial Guinea, and their success or failure could offer valuable insights for Indonesia.
One of the biggest concerns with the move to Nusantara is the displacement of indigenous people. This issue is not unique to Indonesia, but it is nevertheless a significant challenge that must be addressed. At least 20,000 people from 21 indigenous groups are at risk of being displaced by the new capital. The government must take steps to ensure that these people are treated fairly and that their rights are respected.
Environmental concerns are another major issue with the move to a new capital. While the government has promised that Nusantara will be a green, hyperconnected digital utopia, there are significant challenges that must be overcome to make this a reality. For example, the area surrounding Nusantara is home to many endangered species, including the Proboscis monkey, Bornean gibbon, and Sunda pangolin. The Bornean orangutan, in particular, has faced massive population decreases and will be severely affected by the new capital.
In addition to the displacement of indigenous people and the impact on local wildlife, the move to a new capital city in Indonesia presents many other challenges. For example, the energy required to build the new city will come from sources like coal, which could have significant environmental consequences. There are also concerns about the potential impact of the new capital on the local economy, including the fishing industry.
Despite these challenges, the government of Indonesia remains committed to the move to Nusantara. President Joko Widodo has said that the move is meant to shift the economic weight off of Jakarta and that it would develop Indonesia’s economy in historically neglected regions. In addition, the new capital will be a part of a larger development strategy aimed at jumpstarting a green industrial economy in the Kalimantan part of Indonesia.
Overall, the move to a new capital city in Indonesia is a complex undertaking that will require significant planning and resources to succeed. The government must take steps to address the concerns of indigenous people, protect local wildlife, and minimize the impact on the environment. It is also important to consider the potential impact on the local economy, particularly in the fishing industry. Ultimately, the success or failure of the project will depend on the government’s ability to navigate these challenges and build a city that is inclusive, sustainable, and truly represents the needs and interests of all Indonesians.