The inevitability of capital relocation from Jakarta to Nusantara - Hindustan Times
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The inevitability of capital relocation from Jakarta to Nusantara

Apr 26, 2024 12:24 PM IST

The article is authored by Mehdi Hussain, former assistant professor, Political Science, Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi.

The shifting of the capital city (or Ibu Kota Negara, IKN) from Jakarta in Java island to Nusantara in Kalimantan island in Borneo is not a surprise; however, only this time it materialised. The capital relocation is urgent due to critical factors, including the climate crisis, Jakarta’s vulnerabilities, regional development disparity, and Indonesia’s regional and global aspirations.

Indonesia (Pixabay) PREMIUM
Indonesia (Pixabay)

The political leadership's desire to take on the challenges of climate events ahead of significant calamities and development concerns is visible in different political eras--Sukarno, Suharto, and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. We need to look into what ails Jakarta and why Nusantara was chosen as the new capital city. Jakarta is home to about 56% of the country’s total population, with 152 million people living in the city, according to the 2020 census. Jakarta is a sinking city at a rate of 7.5-10 cm per year, and the northern region of Jakarta is particularly below sea level. At the same time, seawater continues to rise due to the climate crisis. Floods generally occur due to overflow of rivers, flooding of the drainage system and seawater landward intrusion. Overall, land availability is declining for further city expansion or accommodation of the needs of development. It is complicated by the loss of agricultural lands. City transportation is ridiculously slow, averaging at a speed of one hour per 10-20 km, according to The Road to Nusantara. The city’s liveability index is below the national average, according to the Indonesian Association of Planners in 2014.

The development disparity region-wise is another woe that the administration seeks to address through the exercise of capital relocation. Jakarta contributes to 59% of Indonesia’s Gross Domestic Product. In contrast, Kalimantan, six times bigger than Java island, is home to only 6% of the total population, with the second highest gross regional domestic product following Jakarta, according to The Road to Nusantara. East Kalimantan, with 3.7 million people, is about one-third of Jakarta’s population. In this context, the establishment of administrative convenience and the push for greater infrastructure development are paramount.

Nusantara embodies the concept of a ‘forest city’, which integrates humans and nature in a harmonious manner. It will be a sustainable city with a green cover of about 75%. It aims to strengthen Indonesia’s efforts to achieve sustainable development goals through sustainable means of urban expansion and growth in Nusantara, which will reduce emissions from transportation and land use.

As part of civilisational growth, the expansion of urban centres is a policy to accommodate the increasing pull of population and in-migration. The pull factors of Jakarta are exemplified by its political stability, better economic opportunities, and cultural richness. Its environmental concerns and regional economic disparity have been push factors for a capital city relocation. Jakarta has represented Indonesia's political identity in Southeast Asia and the world for generations. Perhaps the relocation should embark on a redefinition of its regional and global power, given its strengthening role in international politics in the Indo-Pacific region.

Nusantara also represents Indonesia’s hallmark of ‘unity in diversity’ (Bhinneka Tunggal Ika) due to its geostrategic location in the middle of the western and eastern regions. It is considered to serve the purpose of uniting ethnic and cultural diversity existing in thousands of islands. Nusantara represents Indonesia’s archipelago, which the government believes will reduce the gap between Java and other islands. Indonesia’s economic growth and development are heavily concentrated in Java, while the archipelago consists of more than 17,000 islands.

The new capital city can give Indonesia a path towards inclusive growth, removing the regional economic disparity between central and eastern Indonesia. It consists of new sustainable forest cities covering over 256,000 hectares of green areas, including protected areas and agricultural areas. The cultivation areas consist of agricultural areas and well-defined populated areas with roads, public spaces, industrial areas, office areas, residential areas and security areas. Protecting agricultural land is the top priority of the government’s plan for the new IKN. The government will incorporate several issues of city management in its urban planning: pressure on land, water and resource management, environmental concerns, migration patterns, local concerns, and cultural changes.

The political consensus on the IKN relocation is crucial for developing Kalimantan as the new capital. It is expected to be completed by 2045, while it involves an enormous task to relocate about 250,000 construction workers, civil servants and their families in 2024. Other in-migration include academics, researchers and students. Major government ministries, including the supreme court, foreign affairs, defence, and home affairs, will be moved to the new capital in 2024, while others will be relocated by 2027. The IKN law of January 2022 provides the legal framework, authority, and certainty for the development of Kalimantan as the new capital. It achieved a political consensus of all political parties.

Jakarta will remain a cultural and economic centre. Its historicity, infrastructure, and public facilities will remain a special area and continue to promote tourism. Thus, it will not be abandoned. The IKN relocation is essential for Indonesia’s future, even at the cost of leaving behind Jakarta and its political significance. Moreover, the establishment of the Nusantara capital city is a strong political move by a rising power seeking to set a new political legacy. Countries like Australia, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, and Pakistan previously underwent similar capital relocation.

The article is authored by Mehdi Hussain, former assistant professor, Political Science, Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi.

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