Indonesian President Joko Widodo has approved a long-term plan for the government to abandon overcrowded, sinking and polluted Jakarta and build a new capital.
The idea has been circulating for decades – according to Widodo, since the time of Indonesia’s first President Sukarno – but “it has never been decided or discussed in a planned and mature manner”, the incumbent said.
Three options were discussed at a special cabinet meeting on Monday, but Widodo decided to move the capital outside Indonesia’s most populous island, Java.
The other alternatives were moving to a location near Jakarta or staying put and relocating all government buildings to a special zone around the presidential palace.
The site for a possible new capital hasn’t yet been announced, but Palangkaraya, on the island of Borneo, has often been rumoured as the location.
Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro, however, said eastern Indonesia is favoured.
“This is a big job, impossible to take just one year, it could take up to 10 years,” he said.
Prone to flooding and rapid sinking because of uncontrolled groundwater extraction, Jakarta is the archetypical Asian mega-city creaking under the weight of its dysfunction.
Only four percent of Jakarta’s waste water is treated, according to the government, causing massive pollution to rivers and contaminating the groundwater that supplies the city.
Congestion is estimated to cost the economy $6.5bn a year.
Improving inadequate infrastructure in the country of 260 million has been Widodo’s signature policy and helped him win a second term in elections earlier this month.
Brodjonegoro said a new capital would require an area of 30,000 to 40,000 hectares and have a population of between 900,000 and 1.5 million.
Jakarta has a population of about 30 million in its greater metropolitan area.