January 24, 2022 - 6:31 am

Indonesia Names New Capital Nusantara, Replacing Sinking Jakarta

    On January 18, Indonesia's Parliament adopted a law to move the country's capital from Jakarta to a new city called 'Nusantara,' which will be erected within the jungle of Kalimantan on Borneo island. 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.

     The new capital city, which will be called Nusantara ( meaning- archipelago), encompasses an area of 180,000 hectares between the regencies of Kutai Kartanegara and Penajam Paser Utara. The new capital is located in East Kalimantan, a province comprising of 3.5 million people and endowed with natural resources, including oil and gas, timber and oil palms. The name of the new capital was chosen from more than 80 options by President Joko Widodo to highlight the country’s motto of “unity in diversity” and for its iconic internationally. The word Nusantara also dates back to an oath by country's revered hero Gajah Mada in 1336. Gajah Mada was a powerful military leader and prime minister of Majapahit, a Javanese Hindu empire. He is widely credited with unification of the entire archipelago and taking the empire to its peak of glory.

    Jakarta has been Indonesia's capital since the country gained independence in 1949. However, with a population of 11 million – roughly sixty per cent of the country's total population – the burden on Jakarta has grown too large to bear. The city has developed a notorious reputation for being overcrowded and highly polluted. With traffic jams and congestion becoming increasingly troublesome problems, the Indonesian government has been seeking a solution for several years. Jakarta now ranks among the most polluted cities in the world. However, pollution and population aren't the only two factors guiding the decision. President Joko Widodo has also alluded to rising financial inequality in the country. Despite being home to much of the country's population, Jakarta is spread across just 661.5 square kilometres. However, East Kalimantan, where the new capital will be established, is far less crowded, housing only 3.7 million people but spanning 127,346.92 square kilometres. The region is also rich in mineral resources. Jakarta is also sinking. The World Economic Forum has previously noted that the current capital of Indonesia 'sits on swampy land' and is one of the fastest-sinking cities on the planet. The city also experiences regular flooding with research attributing the cause to overuse of groundwater from domestic drilling activity. 

    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. 

    Under the project, Jakarta will remain the country’s commercial and financial centre, but government administrative functions will move to East Kalimantan, about 2,000km (1,250 miles) north-east of Jakarta. The new capital will be based in the regions of North Penajam Paser and Kutai Kartanegara. Environmentalists have warned the move risks accelerating pollution in East Kalimantan, and contributing to the destruction of rainforests that are home to orangutans, sun bears and long-nosed monkeys.