Explained: Why Indonesia is moving its capital from Jakarta to Nusantara

President Joko Widodo said that the move to the East Kalimantan province would help ease the burden on Jakarta, which is notoriously congested and suffers regular flooding

FP Staff January 19, 2022 13:30:25 IST
Explained: Why Indonesia is moving its capital from Jakarta to Nusantara

Vehicles are caught in congestion during rush hour in Jakarta, Indonesia. A new capital called Nusantara hopes to alleviate some of Jakarta’s woes. AFP

Indonesia announced that its parliament passed a bill on Tuesday, approving the shift of the national capital from Jakarta to a jungle-clad Borneo island that will be named ‘Nusantara’.

President Joko Widodo first announced the plan to move Indonesia’s capital in 2019, in an effort to relieve the huge environmental challenges facing Jakarta, and to redistribute wealth.

The move has been delayed due to the pandemic, but could go ahead in 2024.

New capital

The new capital of Nusantara, which means archipelago" in Javanese, will be built in the East Kalimantan area, known for its jungles and orangutan population.

The mineral-rich East Kalimantan is home to only 3.7 million people.

According to officials, 256,142 hectares of land have been set aside for the project, which will take place in the “first semester” of 2024.

Early plans for the new capital depict a utopian design aimed at creating an environmentally friendly "smart" city, but few details have been confirmed.

Plans to begin construction in 2020 were hampered by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, Widodo said the new capital would be one "where the people are close from any destination, where they can bike and walk everywhere because there are zero emissions".

"This (capital) will not only have government offices, but we also want to build a new smart metropolis that can be a magnet for global talent and a centre of innovation," he said in a speech at a local university.

Nusantara was chosen from a list of 80 names because it was widely recognisable by Indonesians and easy to memorise, the nation's development minister, Suharso Monoarfa, said on Monday.

The new city will be governed by a body dubbed the State Capital Authority, with leadership appointed to five-year terms directly by the president, according to Tuesday's legislation.

Budget details have not yet been revealed in a presidential decree, though previous reports have pegged the project's costs at $33 billion.

Why shift from Jakarta

According to Widodo, the change in the capital from Jakarta to Nusantara was owing to the increasing pollution and population in Jakarta.

A city of 10 million, Jakarta is notoriously congested, suffers regular flooding, and is one of the fastest sinking cities in the world due to the over-extraction of groundwater.

Parts of north Jakarta are falling at an estimated 25 cm a year, due to subsidence – including even the seawall designed as a buffer for communities.

Jakarta has been Indonesia’s capital since the country became independent in 1949.

However, this move has not been widely accepted; environmentalist critics of the capital's move have warned it could damage ecosystems in the region, where mining and palm oil plantations already threaten rainforests that are home to Borneo's endangered species.

Indonesia not the first

Indonesia isn't the first country to relocate from an overpopulated capital. Malaysia moved its government to Putrajaya from Kuala Lumpur in 2003, while Myanmar moved its capital to Naypyidaw from Rangoon in 2006.

In 1960, Brazil changed its capital city from Rio De Janerio to Brasilia, a more centrally-located city.

Nigeria too changed the country’s capital from Lagos to Abuja in 1991.

Kazakhstan also moved its capital city from Almaty, which is still its commercial centre, to Nur-Sultan in 1997.

With inputs from agencies

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