Indonesia to abandon 'sinking' capital Jakarta, search on for new city off mainland

The low-lying capital is sinking up to 18cm per year due to over-extraction of groundwater and almost 40 percent of Jakarta is now reportedly below sea level


                            Indonesia to abandon 'sinking' capital Jakarta, search on for new city off mainland

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has decided that the capital city of his country should move from Jakarta to somewhere off the mainland.  

The planning minister of the country has said that moving the capital of Southeast Asia's largest economy from the main island of Java is an "important decision". He said at a press conference after a cabinet meeting on Monday: "The president chose to relocate the capital city to outside of Java, an important decision."

NZ Herald reported that the planning minister also added that the administration has not yet finalized a new location. He said that moving the capital from Jakarta, which is on the north coast of Java, could take almost 10 years, citing examples of such moves in Brazil, Malaysia, and Kazakhstan.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, gives a speech to supporters at a rally at Jakarta's main stadium on April 13, 2019, in Jakarta, Indonesia (Source: Ed Wray/Getty Images)

Jakarta was turned into the de facto capital by nationalist leaders in the 1940s after Indonesia declared independence but has been a non-stop logistical nightmare since then.

The low-lying capital is also prone to flooding and is sinking up to 18cm per year due to over-extraction of groundwater. Almost 40 percent of Jakarta is now reportedly below sea level.

Its road coverage is also much lower than that of the other big cities in the region and this causes traffic jams all the time.

The so-called "price" of all this congestion has so far been estimated to be around $11 billion by the Jakarta Transportation Agency.

Widodo commissioned a survey in 2017 from the National Development Agency to look into possible sites in Central Kalimantan province on Borneo island.

Jakarta currently has an estimated population of around 10 million, with an estimated 30 million people living in the larger metropolitan area. The island of Java is only the fourth largest in Indonesia but it is home to more than 140 million people, which is more than half of the country's population, reported Sky News.

The downtown skyline of capital Jakarta, Indonesia, obscured by the pollution is seen on the day before 'No-Car Day' is held in Jakarta September 21, 2007, in Jakarta, Indonesia (Source: Dimas Ardian/Getty Images)

The favorite to take over as the capital, so far, is said to be Palangka Raya on the island of Borneo. Moving the capital to Palangka Raya would also move the country's capital closer to its geographic center, would help in rebalancing the dominance of Java, and will boost the economy of the Kalimantan province.

Some other countries that have moved their capitals include Nigeria — Lagos to Abuja; Brazil — Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia; Myanmar — Yangon to Naypyidaw; Russia — St Petersburg to Moscow; Pakistan — Karachi to Islamabad.