With parts of Jakarta sinking 10cm per year, and some four metres in total since records have been kept, the risk of continued flooding has led the president of Indonesia to announce that a new capital city will be built. The government’s new centre will be constructed in what is currently a tropical jungle in East Kalimantan on the east side of Borneo.

East Kalimantan is tropical forest. Image by Afriadi Hikmal/Getty Images

It’s believed that the unsustainable growth of Jakarta, and the environmental, health and economic issues related to it, were other driving factors in the decision to move the capital. President Joko Widodo also noted in his televised speech that the country had never had the chance to choose its own capital in its 74 years of independence.

Jakarta is sinking slowly into the sea. Photo by Ed Wray/Getty Images

The site of the new capital is said to benefit from a reduced risk of natural disasters, such as those posed by volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and mudslides. Greenpeace, however, noted that the area is prone to forest fires. Other environmental organisations have also criticised the move, saying that the new capital risks creating similar damage to the environment as Jakarta, such as reduced air quality. The Environmental Affairs and Forestry department said it is working on an environmental assessment of the project and hopes to be finished with it on schedule in November. If that study gives the new city a green light, construction is set to begin as soon as 2021, with government ministries beginning to function in the new capital by 2023 or 2024.

The cost of the new capital is expected to be no less than US$32.7 billion, with the funds being generated by both public and private partnerships and enterprises.

It is expected that Jakarta will continue to expand. Image by holgs/Getty Images

While some officials have suggested that old government buildings in Jakarta can be cleared to ease congestion or to become green spaces to improve air quality, some studies have shown that the current capital will continue to expand atop the swampland it was built on and overtake Tokyo as the world’s most populated city in the next decade, when it will house almost 36 million residents.

No name has yet been chosen for the new capital city.

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