Going Down

Jakarta is sinking, so Indonesia is relocating its capital

International News Urbanism
Jakarta's skyline (ekokalula/Unsplas)
Jakarta's skyline (ekokalula/Unsplas)

Indonesia’s megacity capital has been sinking and snarled by traffic by years, and newly-elected President Joko Widodo has proposed a solution: moving capital operations to another city.

It’s important to clarify that Widodo didn’t mean physically moving Jakarta to another location, such as what happened with the town of Kiruna in Sweden, but rather crowning another capital city, or building one from scratch.

“We have to find a location that is really minimal in terms of disaster risks,” National Development Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro told the Jakarta Globe. “Also, because Indonesia is a maritime nation, the new capital city should be located near the coast, but not necessarily by the sea.”

Although Jakarta is a booming city of nearly 10 million, it’s also one of the fastest sinking cities in the world, according to the BBC. Groundwater pumping has caused the city to sink by 8 feet in the last 10 years, and some parts of the city are sinking at a rate of nearly 10 inches per year. Half of the city currently sits below sea level, and the rise of the neighboring Java Sea puts the city further at risk of flooding.



In 2016, Jakarta was also rated the most traffic-congested city in the world, and it’s estimated that these traffic jams cost up to $7 billion a year in lost productivity.

Bambang told the Jakarta Globe that the financial services industry would remain in Jakarta, while Indonesia would implement best practices found in other capital cities, such as Washington, D.C., Canberra in Australia, and Sejong in South Korea, in the new capital.

A final location hasn’t been chosen yet, but according to the BBC, three options are on the table. The first is moving the country’s administrative functions to an area just outside of Jakarta, while the second is to rezone a portion of Jakarta and concentrate the government’s offices there. Finally, the option favored by President Widodo is that of building an entirely new capital on a different island. The frontrunner is reportedly Palangkaraya, the current capital of Central Kalimantan, located close to the geographical center of the country.

Bambang expects that moving the capital could take up to 10 years, but President Widodo must first pass the legislation through the House of Representatives before the project can begin.

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