Skip to content
CityLab
Environment

Why Indonesia's Capital Move Has Environmentalists Worried

With Jakarta jammed and sinking, the Indonesian government has chosen Borneo as the site of its new capital, which it promises to make a “forest city.”
Indonesia's current capital, Jakarta, covered in smog.
Indonesia's current capital, Jakarta, covered in smog.Willy Kurniawan/Reuters

With its capital Jakarta continuing to sink into the Java Sea, the government of Indonesia has chosen a location to build a new capital from scratch. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo announced on Monday that the new city will be in the East Kalimantan province, on the lush island of Borneo. While poor urban planning has burdened Jakarta with traffic congestion, overcrowding, and severe air pollution—the worst in Southeast Asia, according to a Greenpeace study—the government promises the new capital will be smarter, cleaner, and greener.

The first phase of the new city will encompass nearly 5,000 acres. Construction of this phase is planned to begin in 2021 and be finished by 2024, according to the news site Mongabay. The entire city, targeted for completion in 2045, will occupy about 495,000 acres of land, two-and-a-half times the size of New York City. The Indonesian government says at least 50 percent will be open green space, with parks and gardens, as well as a zoo and a sports complex, “integrated into the natural landscape such as hilly areas and river systems,” in the words of planning minister Bambang Brodjonegoro.