Widodo mulls capital move

Plans are under discussion to relocate the capital of Indonesia, as a drastic solution to reports that the sprawling megacity of Jakarta, which is famously blocked with congestion, is also sinking.

The city of 13 million is on Java, which hosts almost 60 per cent of Indonesia’s population of 257 million but has only 7 per cent of the land mass. Java is the world’s most populated island.

The number of vehicles, including motorcycles, in greater Jakarta has almost tripled in the last eight years to an estimated 9.5 million with predictions of total traffic gridlock by 2020.

President Joko Widodo has reportedly asked the National Development Planning Agency to carry out a feasibility study on a potential move to Palangkaraya on Borneo (pictured) or another site.

“It is not automatically Palangkaraya, but we will look at several alternatives and also set some criteria,” Bambang Brodjonegoro, head of the agency, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Brodjonegoro told Antara that the government expected a final decision on an alternative capital city “within this year”.

A potential relocation was suggested by former president, the dictator Suharto, in 1957 to cut the association with Jakarta’s Dutch colonial past. Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, apparently planned to move the capital city to Palangkaraya.

Speculation has intensified as areas of northern Jakarta are sinking at around 25cm a year.

Jakarta is one of the fastest-sinking cities in the world amid unchecked development and rising sea levels, threatening large areas with flooding.

Other countries have made similar moves. Malaysia moved its federal institutions out of Kuala Lumpur to the planned suburb of Putrajaya.

In 1960, Brazil moved its capital from Rio de Janeiro to the isolated jungle site of Brasilia. In 2005, Myanmar’s repressive military junta suddenly moved the capital 200 miles north of Yangon to sprawling, soulless Nay Pyi Taw.

Indonesia lacks a mass-transport network, forcing its 250 million population to rely heavily on private transport.

The Central Kalimantan administration said it was hopeful that Widodo would push ahead with the move to Palangkaraya, saying it would fulfil the “dream of Indonesia’s founding fathers”.

Central Kalimantan governor Sugianto Sabran said the province had the “potential to be on par with other more developed provinces” in the archipelago.

“We just pray the plan materialises … Central Kalimantan is in the centre of Indonesia and less prone to earthquakes,” Sugianto said.

Picture credit: Wikimedia