In­done­sia picks Bor­neo is­land for new cap­i­tal

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS -

In­done­sia will move its cap­i­tal to the east­ern edge of jun­gle-clad Bor­neo is­land, Pres­i­dent Joko Wi­dodo said 26 Au­gust, as the coun­try shifts its po­lit­i­cal heart away from con­gested and sink­ing mega­lopo­lis Jakarta.

The pro­posed lo­ca­tion -- near the re­gional ci­ties of Ba­lik­pa­pan and Sa­marinda -- is an area at "min­i­mal" risk of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, where the govern­ment al­ready owns some 180,000 hectares (445,000 acres) of land, he added.

"The lo­ca­tion is very strate­gic -- it's in the cen­tre of In­done­sia and close to ur­ban ar­eas," Wi­dodo said in a tele­vised speech.

"The bur­den Jakarta is hold­ing right now is too heavy as the cen­tre of gov­er­nance, busi­ness, fi­nance, trade and ser­vices," he added.

The an­nounce­ment ends months of spec­u­la­tion about whether Wi­dodo would fol­low through on the long­mooted plan -- it was floated by the newly in­de­pen­dent coun­try's found­ing fa­ther Sukarno more than half a cen­tury ago.

Shift­ing from prob­lem-plagued Jakarta would also trans­fer In­done­sia's power base off Java is­land, where about half of the sprawl­ing ar­chi­pel­ago's 260 mil­lion peo­ple live.

"Mov­ing the cap­i­tal off Java is a ges­ture that aims to so­lid­ify unity," said Jakarta-based po­lit­i­cal risk an­a­lyst Kevin O'Rourke.

"Jakarta will con­tinue to be a megac­ity -- as a cen­tre for fi­nance and com­merce -- for a few more decades, but ul­ti­mately it is at se­vere risk to cli­mate change," he added.

A bill for the pro­posed move will now be pre­sented to par­lia­ment, Wi­dodo said.

Build­ing is set to be­gin next year with the move of some 1.5 mil­lion civil ser­vants slated to be­gin by 2024, at a cost of 466 tril­lion ru­piah ($33 bil­lion), of­fi­cials said. - Orangutans, min­ing -

Known as Kal­i­man­tan, In­done­sia's sec­tion of Bor­neo -- the is­land it shares with Malaysia and Brunei -- is home to ma­jor min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties as well as rain­forests, and is one of the few places on Earth with orangutans in their nat­u­ral habi­tat.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists ex­pressed con­cerns the cap­i­tal city move could threaten en­dan­gered species.

"The govern­ment must make sure that the new cap­i­tal is not built in a con­ser­va­tion or pro­tected area," said Green­peace In­done­sia cam­paigner Jas­mine Putri.

The re­gion has also been blan­keted in chok­ing haze from an­nual for­est fires that rav­age vast swathes of land.

"That makes Kal­i­man­tan un­fit as a can­di­date for a new cap­i­tal city," said Jakarta-based ur­ban plan­ning ex­pert Nir­wono Joga.

"And the move won't nec­es­sar­ily free Jakarta of prob­lems like flood­ing, traf­fic jams and rapid ur­ban­i­sa­tion," he added.

Con­cerns have soared over the fu­ture of Jakarta -- a city nick­named "the Big Durian" after the pun­gent, spiky fruit that deeply di­vides fans and de­trac­tors.

Built on swamp­land, the city is one of the fastest-sink­ing ci­ties on earth, with ex­perts warn­ing that one third of it could be sub­merged by 2050 if cur­rent rates con­tinue. The prob­lem is largely linked to ex­ces­sive ground­wa­ter ex­trac­tion.

But the city of 10 mil­lion -- a num­ber that bloats to about 30 mil­lion with sur­round­ing satel­lite ci­ties -- is also plagued by a host of other ills, from eye-wa­ter­ing traf­fic jams and pol­lu­tion to the risk of earth­quakes and floods. In­done­sia is not the first South­east Asian coun­try to move its cap­i­tal.

Myan­mar and Malaysia have both moved their seat of govern­ment, while Brazil, Pak­istan and Nige­ria are among the na­tions that have also shifted their cap­i­tal ci­ties.

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