Indonesia mulls moving its capital to Borneo

Worried about overpopulation, rising sea levels and urban chaos in Jakarta, the government of Indonesia is considering hopping islands and moving its capital to Borneo.

Officials plan to visit Palangka Raya in Central Kalimantan province this Sunday (31 March) to evaluate the city as a possible alternative capital, Antara News reports.

The team from the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs will make the 900km trip "to collect the required data", according to Fahrizal Fitri, the governor of the province in Central Borneo. In particular, they will assess its suitability from political, legal, and security aspects.

Fitri said officials would meet regional politicians, as well as local police, military and other agencies.

He said: "During our meeting with the ministry’s team members we will shed light on the security situation from the viewpoint of defence, so that Palangka Raya can be deemed suitable for being the country’s capital."

He added: "We also appeal to all stakeholders, including the community, in general, to participate in and support the discourse on the move of  Indonesia’s capital to Palangka Raya, so that it can be realised."

The idea of moving the country’s political centre from Jakarta has been under discussion periodically since Indonesia was a Dutch colony.

In recent times the idea has gained currency as Jakarta’s overpopulation, pollution, congestion has worsened, all exacerbated by a lack of urban planning during its rapid expansion in the 1960s.

There is also a threat from subsiding land and rising sea levels, with one study conducted last year predicting that a quarter of the city will be underwater by 2025 (see Further reading).

The government has been considering the creation of a new city, following the example of Brasilia, or moving the government to an existing city – with Palangka Raya, Banjarmasin, Kota Merdeka, Pontianak and a site near Balikpapan being the strongest contenders in Borneo, alongside Palembang in Sumatra.

At present, Palangka Raya is being seen as the strongest contender, and was assessed last year by the government’s Geospatial Information Agency, which surveyed 300,000ha of land that could be used to site the federal government.

Image: Cityscape of Palangka Raya with the Kahayan River in the foreground (Midori/CC BY 3.0)

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  1. As a graduate of SAS in 1970 I continue to observe Singapore with admiration. I am wondering why we do not advance previously discussed ideas:

    01 200 year lease and/or joint economic zone with Indonesia starting with Batam Island and eventually expanding to Bintan Island, Bulan Island, etcetera. This would also include a multinational anti-piracy navel base, perhaps with China’s first serious external naval facility also on a lease basis.

    02 Canal across the Thai/Malay isthmus or (my preference) a series of underground tunnels for ship to ship transfer of bulk fuel and tonnage at half or less the speed of a Malacca Strait transit.

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