Indonesia to remove 'burden' away from capital city Jakarta to less crowded, less polluted province

Indonesia is getting a less crowded, less polluted capital city, removing the “burden” on sinking Jakarta, the country’s president announced Monday.

President Joko Widodo said the new capital city – which has not yet been named – will move to the mineral-rich province of East Kalimantan on the eastern side of the island.

He said three years of intense studies showed officials that the sparsely populated province on Borneo island, known for rainforests and orangutans, was the ideal place for a new capital city.

“We couldn’t continue to allow the burden on Jakarta and Java island to increase in terms of population density,” Widodo said at a news conference Monday. “Economic disparities between Java and elsewhere would also increase.”

Indonesia President Joko Widodo gestures as he speaks during a press conference at the palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. 

Indonesia President Joko Widodo gestures as he speaks during a press conference at the palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, Aug. 26, 2019.  (AP)

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The president said the decision was made not to move the capital elsewhere on Java Island because the country’s wealth and people are highly concentrated there and should be more spread out.

Currently, 54 percent of the country's nearly 270 million people live on Java, the country's most densely populated area.

Borneo island is the largest in the region and is at the center of the archipelago nation. East Kalimantan was once almost completely covered by rainforests, but illegal logging has removed much of its original growth. It is home to only 3.5 million people and is surrounded by the Kutai National Park, known for orangutans and other primates and mammals.

Meanwhile, Jakarta is an archetypical Asian mega-city with more than 30 million people in its greater metropolitan area. It is prone to earthquakes and flooding and is rapidly sinking due to uncontrolled extraction of groundwater.

Indonesia's decades-long discussion about building a new capital has inched forward after President Joko Widodo approved a long-term plan for the government to abandon overcrowded, sinking and polluted Jakarta. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Indonesia's decades-long discussion about building a new capital has inched forward after President Joko Widodo approved a long-term plan for the government to abandon overcrowded, sinking and polluted Jakarta. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

East Kalimantan has a relatively complete infrastructure because it is near the cities of Balikpapan and Samarinda, Widodo said.

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He said the studies determined that the best site is between two districts, North Penajam Paser, and Kutai Kertanegara, an area that has minimal risk of disasters such as floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, forest fires, volcanic eruptions or landslides in the seismically active nation.

Officials said the relocation of the capital will take at least a decade and cost as much as 466 trillion rupiah ($32.5 billion), of which 19 percent will come from the state budget and the rest will be funded by cooperation between the government and business entities and by direct investment by state-run companies and the private sector.

The idea of relocating the capital away from Jakarta has been proposed for decades.

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Indonesia's founding father and first president, Sukarno, once planned to relocate the capital to Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan province. Plans moved forward in April when Widodo approved a general relocation plan.

He said Monday that his government is still drafting a law on the new capital city that will need to be approved by Parliament.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.