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Why is Indonesia moving its capital from Jakarta to Borneo?


Jakarta is congested, polluted, prone to earthquakes and sinking quickly into the Java Sea. Now the government is about to leave and move Indonesia’s capital to the island of Borneo.

Indonesian officials say the new metropolis will be a “sustainable forest city” that puts the environment at the heart of its development and aims to be carbon neutral by 2045.

But environmentalists warn the capital will cause massive deforestation, threaten the habitat of endangered species such as orangutans and endanger the homes of indigenous communities.

While access to the new capital’s site is usually restricted, The Associated Press was granted permission in early March to visit parts of the site to view construction progress.

Here’s a look at why the capital is moving, the government’s plans and why activists are concerned about the impact on the environment, endangered species and indigenous communities near the project site.


Jakarta is home to about 10 million people and three times that in the metropolitan area. It has been described as the world’s fastest sinking city, and at current rates, it is estimated that a third of the city could be submerged by 2050. The main cause is uncontrolled groundwater extraction, but it has been exacerbated by the rising Java Sea due to climate change.

The air and groundwater are heavily polluted, regularly flooded, and the streets are so clogged that congestion costs the economy an estimated $4.5 billion a year.

President Joko Widodo envisions the construction of a new capital as a remedy to the problems plaguing Jakarta, decreasing the population and allowing the country to start over with a ‘sustainable city’.


Widodo’s plan to found the city of Nusantara – an old Javanese term meaning “archipelago” – will involve building government buildings and housing from scratch. Initial estimates were that more than 1.5 million civil servants would be moved to the city, some 2,000 kilometers (1,240 mi). ) northeast of Jakarta, although ministries and government agencies are still finalizing that number.

Bambang Susantono, head of the Nusantara National Capital Authority said the new capital will adopt the “forest city” concept, reforesting 65% of the area.

The city is expected to be inaugurated on August 17 next year, coinciding with Indonesia’s Independence Day. The new capital said the final stages of the city are unlikely to be completed until 2045, marking the country’s 100th anniversary.


However, skeptics are concerned about the environmental impact of building a sprawling 256,000-hectare city in Borneo’s East Kalimantan province, which is home to orangutans, leopards and a wide variety of other wildlife.

Forest Watch Indonesia, an Indonesian non-governmental organization that monitors forestry issues, warned in a November 2022 report that most of the forested areas in the new capital are “production forests,” meaning permits could be issued for forestry and extractive activities that would lead to further deforestation. Until now, there was no certainty about the conservation status of the remaining natural forests in the new capital, the report said.

AP data analysis also showed that the region can expect more days of extreme heat in the coming years.


At least five villages with more than 100 indigenous Balik people are moving because of construction, and more villages are expected to be uprooted as the construction site expands.

The government said the new capital has received support from local community leaders and has offered compensation to people whose land is being used for the city.

But Sibukdin, an indigenous leader who uses only one name like many in the country and lives in Sepaku, a neighborhood near the construction area, said community members felt compelled to take the money they were offered by the government without knowing how. compensation is paid. calculated or if it was fair, he said.

This story was published from a news agency without any changes to the text.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.