Before and after satellite images show Indonesia’s new capital emerging from the jungle

The current capital of Indonesia is in serious trouble. Stripped of its vital groundwater reservoirs, Jakarta has become one of the fastest sinking cities in the world. If left to nature, up to 25 percent of land could be lost to the sea by 2050. The metropolis is also plagued by other common problems faced by emerging urban centers, such as heavy traffic, poor sanitation, dangerous air pollution and shortages. of drinking water.

To alleviate this logistical nightmare, Indonesia has come up with a plan: move its capital from Jakarta to Nusantara in East Kalimantan – a city that does not yet exist. This master plan involves relocating the capital’s administrative infrastructure, plus approximately 1.9 million people, from Indonesia’s main island Java to the sparsely populated island of Borneo.

The idea to redistribute the capital was passed into Indonesian law in 2022, when Nusantara’s proposed location was a jungle. Satellite images shared by NASA Earth Observatory show how in April 2022 the area was a vast green expanse of tropical rainforest.

However, in February 2024, images from the same vantage point show the settlement slowly starting to take shape. The new satellite images show how the ground has been exposed to make way for a network of roads and infrastructure development amid the rugged backdrop.

Roads and hints of infrastructure emerge near Nusantara on February 19, 2024, in this satellite image from Landsat-9

Roads and hints of infrastructure emerge near Nusantara on February 19, 2024, in this satellite image from Landsat-9

Image credit: USGS/NASA

The Nusantara website states that in the first phase of the capital relocation project – due to be completed in 2024 – the country will move its state palace and parliament building to the site this year. According to the plan, the President of Indonesia will celebrate the 79the anniversary of the country’s independence at the site in August 2024. If all goes well, construction of the entire city will be completed and dusted by 2045.

Judging from recent satellite images, there is still a long way to go before Nusantara becomes the proud capital it dreams of being.

Critics have begun to criticize the Indonesian government, arguing that there is a lack of transparency about the project’s progress.

As always, money is a problem. Many people fear that there is a lack of financing behind the project and that not enough foreign investors will be attracted by the promise. Likewise, some commentators have expressed doubt about whether there will be access to affordable housing in Nusantara.

There are also major concerns about the impact on the environment. The government claims Nusantara will run on 100 percent renewable energy by 2045, while promoting it as a “smart, green, beautiful and sustainable city.” However, many scientists believe this could increase deforestation in Borneo and increase Indonesia’s carbon emissions.

“Deforestation emissions from the immediate (30 kilometers) of the new capital [18.6 miles]) and indirectly (200 kilometers [124.3 miles]) footprint could be around 50 MtCO2e [megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent] and 2326 MtCO2eequivalent to 2.7 to 126 percent of Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2014, respectively,” said a 2020 article on the topic of Nusantara.

Borneo is a hive of biodiversity and home to numerous critically endangered species such as the Bornean orangutan and the Sumatran rhino, as well as charismatic characters such as the clouded leopard. Authorities insist that wildlife be given the utmost protection, but environmentalists are still weary.

In June 2023, Mongabay shared footage of an orangutan crossing the construction site of a planned toll road, clearly highlighting the potential disruption that would be caused by dropping a new city in the middle of a jungle.

“Fortunately, the new capital is located on a coastal area more than 200 kilometers away [124.3 miles] away from the Heart of Borneo ecoregion, which will spare Borneo the burden of immediate direct impacts. However, the indirect spatial impacts can be very significant, and together with environmental justice issues arising from the further marginalization of disadvantaged groups, they pose a significant disadvantage to the development of the new capital that must be anticipated,” continues the paper from 2020.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *