Indonesia To Erect New Capital City In Borneo As Jakarta Sinks Into Java Sea

A jungle-covered area on the east of Borneo island has been named as site of Indonesia's next capital city.

With Jakarta suffering from a combination of an exploding population, dramatically lowered standards of sanitation, and overcrowding leading to a near-constant state of traffic gridlock, government leaders were forced to look elsewhere to establish a new political and economic hub for the country. 

Jakarta has long been slowly sinking. Image source: AFP

But crucially, apart from all of the above ills afflicting the country's current capital, it remains that Jakarta's buildings are slowly sinking into the marshlands upon which they were built. 

Already among the world's most overpopulated urban regions (over 10 million in the city limits with an estimated 30 million people in the greater metropolitan area), it's long been known as among the fastest-sinking cities on Earth — given scientists recently estimated that at the current rate 95% of North Jakarta will be underwater by 2050, displacing nearly 2 million people, as the city sinks into a bog.

Image source: The New York Times

For this reason the government wants the new capital to be located outside of Java and its swampy flood-prone environs - the largest island in the Indonesian archipelago - before Jakarta sinks into the Java Sea.

Reports cite not merely natural phenomena making the city sink at an alarming rate, but rampant over-extraction of groundwater to meet the needs of the massive and densely packed population. 

The relocation is the culmination of a months-long search project and was announced Monday by President Joko Widodo. CNN described the new proposed location as follows:

The proposed location, near the relatively underdeveloped cities of Balikpapan and Samarinda, is a far cry from the crowded powerhouse which has served as Indonesia's financial heart since 1949  and Widodo acknowledged that moving the country's capital to the island will be a mammoth and expensive undertaking.

"As a large nation that has been independent for 74 years, Indonesia has never chosen its own capital," Widodo said in a televised speech. "The burden Jakarta is holding right now is too heavy as the center of governance, business, finance, trade and services."

According to recently updated figures, the financing plan to relocate Indonesia's capital is estimated at 486 trillion rupiah ($34 billion), according to CNN Indonesia , and will take a decade, which sounds a conservative estimate.

A big chunk of North Jakarta is expected to be completely submerged within a half-century.

The unprecedented undertaking will involve developing 40,000 hectares of land (or nearly 100,000 acres), enough for 1.5 million residents to live there. Of course, the tab could be lowered if only part of the state apparatus is shifted.

Rainforest covered Borneo is the world's third largest island and sections are owned by Malaysia and Brunei, though Indonesia owns a majority.