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Indonesia unveils construction site of new capital city. Will it be a ‘massive ecological disaster'?

Published date: 11-Mar-2023

Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, is sinking.

Known for its high pollution, this city on the island of Java is struggling to survive amid environmental, overpopulation and infrastructure challenges. It is also prone to earthquakes.

To address the problem, the Indonesian government is moving Indonesia’s capital to the island of Borneo. But not everyone is convinced it’s a good idea.

Why is Indonesia moving its capital city?

Jakarta is one of the world's most overpopulated cities. Its greater metropolitan area is home to more than 30 million residents.

The sprawling megapolis sinks about six centimetres a year due to the excessive extraction of groundwater for its residents, according to a 2021 study by Indonesia's Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology. This makes it one of the fastest sinking cities on Earth.

The phenomenon has been exacerbated by the rising Java Sea due to climate change. 

A quarter of the capital's area will be completely submerged by 2050 if urgent measures aren’t taken, the National Research and Innovation Agency said.

Researchers also believe water supplies may dry up for many in Jakarta and wider Java if Indonesia does not relieve pressure on resources.

"Jakarta and Java Island are heading towards a clean water crisis. We projected the crisis might happen in 2050," earth scientist Andreas said, blaming rapid population and industrial growth.

"When the population explodes, the poor sanitation will get worse, pollutants will contaminate the rivers and shallow groundwater, rendering them unusable," he added.

Pollution from Jakarta’s traffic-choked roads and the absence of a rubbish collection system - forcing many to burn their trash - has also produced air quality that at times rivals New Delhi and Beijing.

The city's streets are so clogged that it is estimated congestion costs the economy €4.3 billion a year.

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