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Indonesia to replace sinking Jakarta with new capital city

Indonesia to replace sinking Jakarta with new capital city

President of Indonesia Joko Widodo is planning to relocate the nation's capital away from Jakarta, the world's fastest-sinking city.

Bambang Brodjonegoro, national development planning minister of Indonesia, revealed the president's plans to move the capital off the island of Java.

Speaking to Jakarta Globe after a cabinet meeting on Monday, Brodjonegoro said ministers have been told to suggest viable alternatives.

"We want to have a new city, which besides reflecting Indonesia's identity, is a modern, international-class city, or a smart, green and beautiful city," he told the news website.

Jakarta sunk 2.5 metres in 10 years

Jakarta, which is home to 10 million people, has been suffering from extreme land subsidence for decades. The northern part of the city has sunk by 2.5 metres in the past 10 years, and research shows some areas could be entirely submerged by 2050.

Almost half of the city is already below sea level and flooding is frequent, thanks to the 13 rivers that run through it. Jakarta also has the worst traffic congestion of any city on the planet.

The new capital will be close to the geographic centre of the country, according to Brodjonegoro. Cities that have been proposed in the past as possible new capitals include Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan and Makassar in South Sulawesi.

"It would be central from west to east or north to south," he told Jakarta Globe. "To represent justice and encourage development, especially in the eastern part of Indonesia."

Capital "should be near the coast"

The new capital's location will be chosen to reduce the potential risks from natural disasters said Brodjonegoro.

"We have to find a location that is really minimal in terms of disaster risks," he added. "Also, because Indonesia is a maritime nation, the new capital city should be located near the coast, but not necessarily by the sea."

The announcement comes shortly after Widodo, who has been president since 2014, claimed victory in the latest election. The official results are not due to be announced until May 22.

The move is expected to take around 10 years and will be modelled on similar projects undertaken elsewhere in the world.

Brazil famously relocated its capital from overcrowded Rio de Janeiro to the Oscar Niemeyer-designed Brasilia in 1961, while Myanmar moved its capital from Yangon to Naypyidaw in 2005. Egypt is currently building its new capital city on the outskirts of Cairo.

Locals have heard it all before

Indonesia has been floating plans to move its capital since the 1940s, when the country gained independence from Dutch rule.

Critics are doubtful that the move will ever happen.

"Indonesians are sceptical about their capital ever moving. They have heard this before and none of Indonesia's six presidents have been able to pull it off," said Rebecca Henschke, former editor of BBC Indonesian.

"But President Joko Widodo has achieved ambitious infrastructure building in his five years in office, so he may well be the man that finally does it."

The biggest issue, according to Henschke, is the weight of influence held by the island of Java.

"Indonesia is an incredibly diverse nation made up of hundreds of ethnic groups living on thousands of islands. But economic development, national cultural identity and political power have always been dominated by the Javanese," she said.

Image is courtesy of Shutterstock.