As climate change threatens the future of Jakarta, the country has chosen to relocate its capital to the less-crowded island of Borneo which may be the new capital of Indonesia. On Monday, Indonesia president Joko Widodo announced a plan to relocate the capital to a proposed location in the province of East Kalimantan straddling the two regions of Penajam Paser Utara and Kutai Kartanegara. The country announced that it was looking to move the capital base earlier this year.
Jakarta, consistently ranked among the most populated cities in the world, is sinking. Around one half of the city already lies below sea level and chaotic water extraction is only worsening the predicament. The current capital is continuing to sink by as much as 25 centimeters a year, making it the fastest sinking city in the world.
The move has been met by mixed reactions. Supporters share Widodo’s concern over the mounting traffic concerns, unbearable pollution, and economic slowdown. Critiques, however, are concerned about the environmental degradation of Borneo’s fragile ecosystems and its vulnerability to corruption. Kalimantan is covered by rainforests and has already lost half of its critically endangered orangutans’ population due to rampant deforestation.
The transfer of over 1.5 million people would cost up to $33 billion USD and could possibly take around a decade. The strategic move is aimed to ease the administrative pressure on Jakarta while the metropolis will continue to be the commercial center.
According to experts, if the rising sea levels are not combatted within a decade, northern Jakarta, an important business and finance center along with its population will end up underwater. Even if appropriate measures are put in place soon, the city will still have to muddle through increasing environmental and economic uncertainty.
Coastal cities all around the world are coping with rising sea levels, but the rate of subsidence of Jakarta is alarming. Widodo’s attempt to move people away from the rising Java Sea must be successful, or the lives of millions of Jakartans will be at risk.