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29 Apr, 2019 15:46

Abandon ship! Indonesia plans to move capital city as it is slowly sinking underwater

Abandon ship! Indonesia plans to move capital city as it is slowly sinking underwater

The world’s fourth most populous country Indonesia looks set to move its capital city away from flood-prone, sinking and overcrowded Jakarta to elsewhere on the Asian archipelago, according to the country’s planning minister.

“The president chose to relocate the capital city to outside of Java, an important decision,” Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said of disputed President Joko Widodo’s proposal and campaign promise.

The minister cited examples such as Brazil, Australia and Kazakhstan which all, at one point, moved their capital cities. The official presidential election results are due on May 22 and Widiodo’s rival Prabowo Subianto has also claimed victory.

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Jakarta boasts an official population of over 10 million, with around three times that number living in its sprawling metropolitan area, while some 60 percent of Indonesia’s 260 million people live on the island of Java.

Half of the flood-prone capital is below sea level and it continues to sink at an alarming rate; one World Bank report found that Jakarta could be 40cm to 60cm lower in 2025 than it was in 2008. Such sinkage would allow the sea to enter as far as the Presidential Palace, which is some five kilometers inland. Moving the capital could take up to a decade, however.

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“Moving the capital requires thorough and detailed preparation,” Widiodo said following the announcement, though a new location has yet to be decided. One early contender is Palangkaraya on the part-Indonesian island of Borneo, where some 300,000 hectares of land has already been prepared for habitation in the event it is selected as the new capital.

The issue has come up many times before since Indonesia gained independence from the Dutch in 1945, but none of the country’s six presidents have managed to carry out the audacious move so far.

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