Moving your capital city is a pretty big effort. Government has to reorganised entirely, and with a new administrative centre comes a whole load of building that needs to be done. But if the city in question is facing devastating environmental change, that might be the only option.
This, sadly, is exactly what’s happening in Indonesia. President Joko Widodo announced in 2019 that the capital would need to move from Jakarta due to rising sea levels and the risk of building collapse. Now the name of the new city has been unveiled: Nusantara, which means ‘archipelago’. It’s being built in the province of East Kalimantan on the island of Java.
Jakarta has been notorious for flooding for decades. In fact, it’s literally sinking. Thirteen rivers run through the city, which is built on extremely swampy land. As a result, water is constantly being pumped out, but this has caused building foundations to crumble and some parts of the city have sunk 25cm per year – way below sea level.
Nusantara is going to be built to be flood-resistant, making the lives of its residents less dangerous. And it’s hoped that by moving the capital to Kalimantan, this will help redistribute wealth across the country, too. But despite those social benefits, environmentalists have criticised the plans, saying it could harm endangered species including orang’utans, sun bears and long-nosed monkeys.
The debate rumbles on – but with the construction of Nusantara slated to begin later this year, we’ll soon be able to see successful the move really is.