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Indonesia plans to move its capital to the east of Borneo

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced on Monday that a site in eastern Borneo island has been chosen to relocate the country’s political capital, replacing Jakarta, a huge and overcrowded city threatened by rising water levels.

The president said the site was first chosen “because it is not very vulnerable to natural disasters” such as floods, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, much of which is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire.

The Chair noted that the new location in East Kalimantan (the Indonesian part of Borneo) was chosen “because it is strategically located, in central Indonesia”.

The proposed site is located between the cities of Balikpapan and Samarinda in a tropical forest area with great biodiversity. The site has not yet been officially adopted as the country’s capital.

“The burden borne by Jakarta is very heavy as a political, economic and financial center as well as for trade and services,” the Indonesian president said.

“Since it became independent, Indonesia has never chosen its capital,” he recalled.

The idea of ​​relocating the capital of Indonesia has been on the table for decades and was backed by Ahmad Sukarno, Indonesia’s first post-independence president.

Moving the capital to Borneo allows for a rebalancing of growth in the archipelago, where Java has the biggest burden. It has half of the country’s 260 million people and 60 percent of the economy.

Political analyst Kevin Uruk said that “moving the capital out of the island of Java will allow to strengthen the unity of the country.”

“Jakarta will remain a huge city and a financial and commercial center for many decades, but it is threatened by climate change.”

The government will prepare a law to be passed in parliament to approve the capital change, according to the president, who estimated the cost of the operation to be $ 33 billion.

Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro explained that after a preparatory phase in 2020, the transfer of government bodies is supposed to start from 2024.

– Virgin forests.

The island of Borneo, shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, is home to a virgin forest that is home to many rare animal species.

Environmentalists fear the capital transfer project could pose a threat to these endangered species.

“The government should ensure that the new capital is not built in protected areas,” said Jasmine Puri of Greenpeace Indonesia.

The area has recently been hit by forest fires that caused massive smoke clouds.

Urban planner Nerouno Joga said that these reasons “make Kalimantan an unsuitable alternative to the capital,” adding that this “will not necessarily solve the problems of Jakarta such as floods, congestion and urbanization.”

Jakarta, the big city that expanded at Batavia, the ancient capital created by Dutch colonists nearly 500 years ago, is under water.

At the current pace, a third of the city could be submerged by 2050, according to environmental experts. The capital is undermined by poor urban planning and the fact that a large number of the population does not have a water supply network and uses groundwater leading to the collapse of entire neighborhoods.

Adding to these problems are traffic congestion, pollution and the risk of earthquakes, and the government announced in May that it would choose this year a new political capital.

Jakarta has a population of about 10 million and a population of 30 million.

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