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Indonesia Relocating Nation’s Capital To Kalimantan

Indonesia is relocating its capital to a new location in East Kalimantan on the island of Borneo. Jakarta is facing several challenges, but rising tides and sinking soil will take its toll on this massive city.

Due to uncontrolled groundwater extraction and rising sea levels, parts of the city will be under water by 2050. With more than 30 million residents and a massive footprint, Jakarta is one of the most densely populated cities on the planet, leading to congestion, pollution, untreated wastewater and other urban issues. The Indonesian government hopes that relocating the capital will help eliminate some of the pressure and remove the downside of the present location. It might be the first wave of mass migration away from this historic port city.

Borneo is one of the largest islands in the world. In fact, it holds the distinction of being the third-largest island globally. Greenland and New Guinea are the only islands larger. Borneo offers a stunning diversity of landscapes, ranging from lush rainforests teeming with unique wildlife to towering mountains and vast coastlines. This biodiversity and sheer size contribute significantly to the island’s ecological and cultural importance.

Indonesia shares the island of Borneo with Brunei and Malaysia. Brunei is a sultanate located on the north coast. It controls about 1 percent of the island’s land area. Meanwhile, Malaysia controls about 26 percent of the island, while Indonesia claims about 73 percent of Borneo—known as East Kalimantan and West Kalimantan provinces.

Indonesia hopes that establishing the new capital in East Kalimantan will stimulate economic growth in a less developed region of the country.

The new capital, Nusantara, is envisioned as a “forest city” with a focus on sustainability, renewable energy, and smart technologies. It’s about as far north as you can go in Indonesia, which means that it might be a degree or two cooler than Jakarta.

The relocation of Indonesia’s capital is a complex and ambitious project with potential benefits and drawbacks. Critics argue that building a new city will lead to deforestation and threaten endangered species in Borneo. The relocation project also raises concerns about the displacement and potential marginalization of Indigenous communities in the area.

Indonesia biodiversity threatened

Borneo is one of just two islands in the world that has endangered orangutans. Borneo is home to an incredible diversity of plant and animal life, many of which are found nowhere else on earth. Expanding human populations and economic activity will not help save the island’s rainforests and overall biodiversity. Rainforests play a vital role in storing carbon dioxide and regulating the climate. Deforestation releases this stored carbon into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming and climate change.

Unfortunately, the entire island of Borneo has been under extreme pressure from industry for the past 40 years. Mining, logging and agriculture have deforested thousands, if not millions, of acres. Deforestation across Borneo is a major environmental concern, with the island losing a significant portion of its vast rainforests. This has had devastating consequences for the island’s unique biodiversity, indigenous communities, and the global climate.

The expansion of palm oil plantations is a major culprit, driven by the global demand for this vegetable oil used in food, cosmetics, and biofuels. Clearing rainforest for these plantations destroys critical habitat for many species, while releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Hopefully, clearing the forest for a new capital will not define this forest city. Hopefully, Nusantara will be a model in best practices for the world.

The official groundbreaking ceremony for Nusantara took place in March 2022. Construction is ongoing, with initial phases focusing on government buildings and essential infrastructure. The full relocation process is expected to take decades.

Nusantara is located on the east coast of the island of East Kalimantan. The city will be inaugurated on August 17, 2024.

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Author: Gary Chandler

Gary Chandler is a sustainability strategist, author and advocate. Follow him on Twitter @Gary_Chandler