One Nation's Capital Is Sinking. Solution? Build a New One

Indonesia is trying to do that, and the 'New York Times' digs into the huge challenges
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 21, 2023 1:30 PM CDT
One Nation's Capital Is Sinking. Solution? Build a New One
A worker at the construction site of the new capital city in Borneo, Indonesia.   (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

Indonesia's capital of Jakarta has a fundamental problem: To put it simply, the city of 30 million people is sinking. President Joko Widodo has tried all kinds of "Sisyphean" solutions to fix things, writes Hannah Beach in the New York Times, but it appears the rising sea will win in the end. Joko's unconventional solution? Move the capital. More specifically, build a new one from scratch about 800 miles away on the island of Borneo. The plan has been in motion for a few years now, and Beach spent a day touring the site of the future capital, to be called Nusantara. In Joko's vision, Nusantara will be the most modern of cities, not only high-tech but "a green metropolis run on renewable energy, where there are no choking traffic jams and people can stroll and bike along verdant paths."

All sounds great, but Beach catalogs the problems. For one thing, "while bulldozers are clearing acres of plantation forestland, not a single showcase structure has been completed." Which is a problem because Joko's term is over at the end of 2024, and some of his prospective successors oppose the idea of a new capital. "Without Mr. Joko’s imprimatur, the capital project could founder, leaving the jungle to reclaim half-built ministries," writes Beach. The main architect, meanwhile, is worried that rushing the schedule will compromise safety. The story explores the monumental logistics involved, and the reality that millions of people would still be living on sinking Jakarta. The full story incudes photographs and videos of both Jakarta and the future site of Nusantara. (More Indonesia stories.)

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