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Work begins on new capital for Indonesia

By LEONARDUS JEGHO in Jakarta | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-03-15 07:32

Rush-hour traffic in Jakarta will be left behind in the vision for Indonesia's new capital. DITA ALANGKARA/AP

Indonesia officially launched the construction of the new national capital in the Penajam Paser Utara regency in East Kalimantan on Monday, with President Joko Widodo leading the ceremony.

At point zero of the planned new capital, Widodo was presented with a small bag of earth and a pot of water taken from their area of governance.

Widodo then combined all the earth and water into large pots to symbolize national unity, an ideal that is hoped to be enforced by the new state capital Nusantara, which roughly translates to the word archipelago. In the Indonesian language, fatherland is called tanah air that literally means earth and water.

"Today, we gathered here for our big aspiration and for the big work that we will begin to carry out soon, namely the building of Ibu Kota Nusantara," Widodo said.

"I would like to express my gratitude to the governors. This is the form of our unity in diversity, the strong unity among us, in building Ibu Kota Nusantara."

Earlier, Rudy Soeprihadi Hartono, deputy head of the regional development department with the National Development Planning Agency, said East Kalimantan was selected because its cities are already developed compared with other provinces.

"In East Kalimantan, the possibility of natural disasters like tsunamis and volcano eruption is relatively small. And the population in the province is very diverse," Hartono said.

The construction of Nusantara will be carried out in phases. It will start with the building of the central government area that is home to the presidential palace, government office buildings and residential areas for government workers including the military and police.

As many as 60,000 government employees will be relocated from Jakarta to Nusantara by the end of 2023.

Estimates put the population in the new state capital at about 320,000 by 2045.

Financing of the multitrillion dollar project will be mostly sourced from public-private partnerships and private investment. Only one-fifth will come from the state budget.

Bambang Susantono, former vice-minister of transportation and infrastructure expert, told local media that the country will build an institution "that is capable and which can run fast together with all stakeholders".

East Kalimantan Vice-Governor Hadi Mulyadi said the presence of the new state capital would have good impact on 10 regencies and cities in the region, most of which still have poor infrastructure.

Tohar, acting secretary of Penajam Paser Utara regency, told the media that the new state capital project will be carried out without causing a development gap between the new capital and surrounding areas.

Environmental challenges

Widodo first announced the plan to move Indonesia's capital in 2019, in an effort to relieve the huge environmental challenges facing the current capital Jakarta and to redistribute wealth. The move has been delayed due to the pandemic.

The government hopes it will reduce the burden on Jakarta, a city of 10 million, which suffers regular flooding and is one of the fastest sinking cities in the world due to the over extraction of groundwater.

Environmentalists have warned that the move will risk accelerating pollution in East Kalimantan, and contribute to the destruction of rainforests home to orangutans, sun bears and long-nosed monkeys.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.

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