Wednesday, May 31, 2023
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Indonesia names new capital that will replace Jakarta

Indonesia has announced that its new capital will be called Nusantara, meaning “archipelago” in Javanese.

It came as parliament approved a bill to relocate the capital from Jakarta, which is rapidly sinking.

The idea of building a new capital 1,300km (800 miles) away on the island of Borneo was first proposed in 2019.

But critics have said the new name could be confusing and that the move itself fails to take environmental factors into consideration.

Jakarta has become crowded, polluted and is sinking at an alarming rate  due to the over-extraction of groundwater. Home to more than 10 million people, it sits on swampy land on the large island of Java.

Air pollution and traffic jams in the city are notorious. Government ministers have to be escorted by police convoys to get to meetings on time.

In building a new capital in East Kalimantan, an Indonesian province on the island of Borneo, the government hopes it can take some of the pressure off Jakarta.

Known for its jungles and orangutan population, mineral-rich East Kalimantan is home to only 3.7 million people, according to the most recent census.

Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, Planning Minister Suharso Monoarfa said “the new capital has a central function and is a symbol of the identity of the nation, as well as a new centre of economic gravity”.

But critics have argued that the construction of the new city will lead to the expansion of palm-oil plantations and logging in an area rich in diverse wildlife and lush rainforests.

Groups representing the indigenous people of Borneo have also voiced their concerns previously, saying that their environment and culture could be endangered by the move.

The announcement of the new city’s name has also sparked some debate on social media.

Some have said that the new name could prove confusing because Nusantara is an old Javanese term used in Indonesia to refer to the archipelago nation as a whole.

The planning minister said the capital’s new name was chosen by the president because it reflected Indonesia’s geography and was iconic internationally.

The move will cost an estimated 466 trillion rupiah ($32.4bn; £23.8bn) and will be one of the biggest infrastructure projects the Indonesian government has ever undertaken.

Indonesia is not the first country to change its capital – Brazil, Pakistan and Nigeria have all changed theirs to newly planned and constructed cities.

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