Indonesia Names New Capital That Will Replace Jakarta

Story Highlights
  • Indonesia has announced that its new capital will be called Nusantara.
  • The idea of building a new capital was first proposed in 2019.
  • The announcement of the new city's name has also sparked some debate on social media.

Indonesia: Government plans to name its new capital Nusantara, which translates as “archipelago”, when government offices are relocated to the province of East Kalimantan from Jakarta, on the island of Java. President Joko Widodo first announced the plan to move Indonesia’s capital in 2019, in an effort to relieve the huge environmental challenges facing Jakarta, and to redistribute wealth. The move has been delayed due to the pandemic, but could go ahead in 2024.

The government hopes it will reduce the burden on Jakarta, a city of 10 million, which is notoriously congested, suffers regular flooding, and is one of the fastest sinking cities in the world due to the over-extraction of groundwater. Parts of north Jakarta are falling at an estimated 25cm a year, due to subsidence including even the seawall designed as a buffer for communities. The new name had been selected from more than 80 options by Widodo and was chosen because it reflected Indonesia’s geography, and was iconic internationally, said Suharso Monoarfa, the national development planning minister.

Some have pointed out that the choice could prove confusing since Nusantara is also used to refer to the archipelago nation as a whole. Others have questioned why Nusantara, an old Javanese term, was selected when the new capital was being built in Kalimantan. Construction could start this year after a bill on the new capital was approved by parliament on Tuesday. By relocating the capital, the government also hopes to redistribute wealth. Java is home to 60% of the country’s population and more than half of its economic activity even though Kalimantan is almost four times bigger.

Under the project, Jakarta will remain the country’s commercial and financial centre, but government administrative functions will move to East Kalimantan, about 2,000km (1,250 miles) northeast of Jakarta. The new capital will be based in the regions of North Penajam Paser and Kutai Kartanegara. Environmentalists have warned the move risks accelerating pollution in East Kalimantan and contributing to the destruction of rainforests that are home to orangutans, sun bears and long-nosed monkeys.

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