Jakarta is sinking: the government decides to move the capital

The Indonesian government has resumed work, suspended following the pandemic, to move the capital from Jakarta to a metropolis that will be built from scratch on the island of Borneo and that will be called “Nusantara” which means “archipelago” or ” other islands”. The project, aimed at decongesting the now polluted and overcrowded capital, was launched by President Joko Widodo already in 2019 and initially involved only the administrative offices and institutions.

Now its scope is certainly more relevant and the relocation of the capital, the nerve and entrepreneurial center of South East Asia, it’is a necessary and urgent decision for the country as the city is slowly sinking and it is estimated that its congestion costs the economy 4.5 billion dollars a year.

Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world and the current capital is home to 60% of the entire Indonesian population. The city, founded by the Dutch, was intended to accommodate 500,000 people. Today, as a result of rapid but uncontrolled growth, only in the centre of the city reside 10 million people.
This overcrowding is closely linked to the pollution of Jakarta. It is estimated that it is one of the most polluted cities in the world and that air pollution makes 5.5 million people sick every year in the region.

The intensive exploitation of aquifers, also linked to population growth, has dried up the subsoil and caused the progressive lowering of the soil.

The geography of the current capital is another of its problems. Located at the confluence of 13 rivers, Jakarta is at risk of flooding in the rainy season, causing the lack of access to running water for neighboring populations.

Due to these factors and the government’s negligence in managing environmental protection projects, the current capital is sinking at such a speed that researchers at the Bandung Institute of Technology predict that, also considering the rise in the level of sea, 95% of northern Jakarta could be submerged by 2050.

The  Ministry of National Development Planning has estimated that the project will be finalized in 2045 and that it will cost about 32.5 billion dollars with important consequences on the Indonesian public debt. The government has already announced that it intends to build on an area of ​​180,000 hectares, investing 19% of the total amount planned. The rest of the funds will come from public-private partnerships and private investments.

Part of the funds will be used to prevent Jakarta from sinking: the old capital, in fact, will not be abandoned but only partially emptied and will continue to host economic activities and residents. The Indonesian government has therefore decided to erect a monumental marine barrier to the north of the city, which however, could prove to be very little useful, considering that the seabed on which it will be installed is also sinking.

Instead of merely erecting barriers, it would be more useful to redesign existing cities so that they can live with water and this implies first of all the need to safeguard the natural barriers that already guarantee resilience in the face of the advancing waters. If Jakarta is so vulnerable today it is also because it cannot enjoy the natural protection provided by the mangrove forest that once framed it. Nusantara will be built in an area now occupied by similar forests, and a heavy impact on the local ecosystem is expected.

For this reason, Joko Widodo’s project does not seem to convince environmentalists and, in addition to the destruction of parts of the forest, a general increase in pollution is feared due to the foreseeable increase in traffic and the creation of new industries and systems for energy production.

Despite this doubts, Widodo reassured Parliament that the main objective is to build a smart city, globally competitive, to build a new locomotive for transformation, towards an Indonesia based on innovation and technology based on “green economy “.

The case of Jakarta is the first that sees a country decide to “abandon” its capital due to the climate crisis but many other Asian megalopolises, including Tokyo with 38 million inhabitants at the top of the ranking, are in a similar situation and in the future it may become necessary to move the population elsewhere.

Indeed, according to experts, the phenomenon of climate migration will involve 216 million people by 2050 and this will open the doors to different social problems that will need to be answered.

Jakarta is sinking: the government decides to move the capital

The Indonesian government has resumed work, suspended following the pandemic, to move the capital from Jakarta to a metropolis that will be built from scratch on the island of Borneo and that will be called “Nusantara” which means “archipelago” or ” other islands”. The project, aimed at decongesting the now polluted and overcrowded capital, was launched by President Joko Widodo already in 2019 and initially involved only the administrative offices and institutions.

Now its scope is certainly more relevant and the relocation of the capital, the nerve and entrepreneurial center of South East Asia, it’is a necessary and urgent decision for the country as the city is slowly sinking and it is estimated that its congestion costs the economy 4.5 billion dollars a year.

Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world and the current capital is home to 60% of the entire Indonesian population. The city, founded by the Dutch, was intended to accommodate 500,000 people. Today, as a result of rapid but uncontrolled growth, only in the centre of the city reside 10 million people.
This overcrowding is closely linked to the pollution of Jakarta. It is estimated that it is one of the most polluted cities in the world and that air pollution makes 5.5 million people sick every year in the region.

The intensive exploitation of aquifers, also linked to population growth, has dried up the subsoil and caused the progressive lowering of the soil.

The geography of the current capital is another of its problems. Located at the confluence of 13 rivers, Jakarta is at risk of flooding in the rainy season, causing the lack of access to running water for neighboring populations.

Due to these factors and the government’s negligence in managing environmental protection projects, the current capital is sinking at such a speed that researchers at the Bandung Institute of Technology predict that, also considering the rise in the level of sea, 95% of northern Jakarta could be submerged by 2050.

The  Ministry of National Development Planning has estimated that the project will be finalized in 2045 and that it will cost about 32.5 billion dollars with important consequences on the Indonesian public debt. The government has already announced that it intends to build on an area of ​​180,000 hectares, investing 19% of the total amount planned. The rest of the funds will come from public-private partnerships and private investments.

Part of the funds will be used to prevent Jakarta from sinking: the old capital, in fact, will not be abandoned but only partially emptied and will continue to host economic activities and residents. The Indonesian government has therefore decided to erect a monumental marine barrier to the north of the city, which however, could prove to be very little useful, considering that the seabed on which it will be installed is also sinking.

Instead of merely erecting barriers, it would be more useful to redesign existing cities so that they can live with water and this implies first of all the need to safeguard the natural barriers that already guarantee resilience in the face of the advancing waters. If Jakarta is so vulnerable today it is also because it cannot enjoy the natural protection provided by the mangrove forest that once framed it. Nusantara will be built in an area now occupied by similar forests, and a heavy impact on the local ecosystem is expected.

For this reason, Joko Widodo’s project does not seem to convince environmentalists and, in addition to the destruction of parts of the forest, a general increase in pollution is feared due to the foreseeable increase in traffic and the creation of new industries and systems for energy production.

Despite this doubts, Widodo reassured Parliament that the main objective is to build a smart city, globally competitive, to build a new locomotive for transformation, towards an Indonesia based on innovation and technology based on “green economy “.

The case of Jakarta is the first that sees a country decide to “abandon” its capital due to the climate crisis but many other Asian megalopolises, including Tokyo with 38 million inhabitants at the top of the ranking, are in a similar situation and in the future it may become necessary to move the population elsewhere.

Indeed, according to experts, the phenomenon of climate migration will involve 216 million people by 2050 and this will open the doors to different social problems that will need to be answered.

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