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Indonesia approves plans to move capital away from rapidly-sinking city of Jakarta

Half of the city, which is home to 30 million people, is below sea level.

The central business district skyline is seen during the dusk in Jakarta yesterday.
The central business district skyline is seen during the dusk in Jakarta yesterday.
Image: Dita Alangkara/AP

INDONESIA COULD MOVE its capital away from Jakarta, after the government approved a long-term plan to abandon the overcrowded and sinking city.

Urban planning minister Bambang Brodjonegoro unveiled a long-awaited relocation plan yesterday, after it won approval from the country’s president Joko Widodo.

Widodo has favoured moving the capital away from Indonesia’s most populous Java island, with the city prone to annual flooding, congestion and waste problems.

“(Widodo) decided on … the option to relocate the capital,” Brodjonegoro said after a cabinet meeting.

Low-lying Jakarta, which is home to nearly 30 million people, is one of the world’s fastest sinking cities due to excessive groundwater extraction.

Half of the city – which is crossed by 13 rivers – is below sea level, while research has suggested that it is sinking at a rate of up to 15cm a year.

Only 4% of the city’s wastewater is treated, according to the government, which causes massive pollution to rivers and contamination to the ground water that supplies the city.

The city also suffers some of the world’s worst traffic jams, and congestion is estimated to cost the economy €5.8 billion a year.

In a statement before yesterday’s cabinet meeting, president Widodo expressed support for the idea, but did not give an alternative location or a timeline for any move.

“In the future, would Jakarta be able to carry the double burden of being both the centre of government and its business centre?” he asked in the statement.

“If we prepare well from the very beginning, this great idea could be realised,” he added.

During his re-election campaign, Widodo pledged to spread economic growth more evenly in the nation of 260 million people.

Under the new plan, Jakarta would remain the country’s financial hub, but the governmental capital would move to another, as yet unnamed, location.

Local media has reported that a possible new capital could be Palangkaraya city on the island of Borneo, although Brodjonegoro said that eastern Indonesia was favored.

Palangkaraya city was one of three options discussed, with other alternatives including moving to a location near Jakarta or leaving the capital in place and relocating all government buildings to a special zone around the presidential palace.

Before the Cabinet meeting, Widodo also said other countries such as Malaysia, South Korea and Brazil set up new capitals as part of their development as nations.

“The idea to move the capital city appeared long ago,” he said. “But it has never been decided or discussed in a planned and mature manner.”

With additional reporting from - © AFP 2019 and Associated Press.

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