The Plan to Build a New Capital

“Jakarta has numerous issues,” says my colleague Hannah Beech, The Occasions’s senior correspondent for Asia, “however its most existential one is that it’s sinking in some locations by as much as a foot a yr.”

Local weather change is a part of the rationale: The Java Sea — which surrounds Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital — is rising. However a fair greater issue is that Jakartans, determined for entry to scrub water, have dug hundreds of unlawful wells that successfully deflate the marshes beneath town. At the moment, 40 p.c of Jakarta lies beneath sea stage, and flooding is more and more widespread.

The encroaching sea presents a risk to one of many world’s most densely packed cities, the place 10 million folks stay in an space about half the scale of New York Metropolis, and one other 20 million reside within the surrounding area. To cope with that risk, Indonesia’s common president — Joko Widodo, in his ninth yr in workplace — has devised an audacious answer: He’s shifting the nation’s capital.

The brand new capital, now beneath building, is named Nusantara. It’s being constructed from the bottom up, about 800 miles from the present capital. Joko guarantees that town will likely be a mannequin of environmental stewardship, carbon impartial inside a couple of many years.

In contrast to Jakarta, which is in Java, the area that has lengthy dominated the nation’s politics and economic system, Nusantara is in Borneo, the place residents have felt missed. “Indonesia is greater than Jakarta,” Joko informed Hannah on a current tour of Nusantara. “Indonesia is greater than Java. So we should make the capital in a spot that’s distant.”

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However it stays unclear whether or not his grand plans will succeed. Joko desires the brand new capital to open subsequent yr, earlier than his second — and, by regulation, closing — time period as president ends. Not all his potential successors help the plan. And it appears to be delayed: No residential towers have been constructed, and the lead architect is nervous that the fast building schedule may compromise security.

“Folks need Nusantara to succeed as a result of it implies that the growing world — regardless of all the issues that had been positioned in its path by the legacy of imperialism, by the legacy of colonialism — {that a} nation can succeed by itself phrases and generally is a profitable democracy and may create its personal imaginative and prescient for itself,” Hannah stated. “However it’s a really, very difficult factor to do.”

Learn her story and see the images and movies that accompany it.

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