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Indonesia relocates capital from Jakarta to Nusantara due to environmental threats

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Indonesia parliament has approved a bill to move the nation’s capital from Jakarta to Nusantara in the East Kalimantan.

Home to 10 million residents, Jakarta has become crowded, polluted and is sinking at an alarming rate due to the over-extraction of groundwater. The flood-prone megacity sits on swampy land on the large island of Java.

The new capital is situated in mineral-rich East Kalimantan, an Indonesian province on the island of Borneo known for its jungles and orangutan population. According to the most recent census, it is home to only 3.7 million people.

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.”

Monoarfa explained that the capital’s new name was chosen by the president because it reflected Indonesia’s geography and was iconic internationally.

The new capital, Nusantara means “archipelago” in Indonesian.

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.

However, 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.

Interestingly, some former presidents have floated ideas of relocating the capital city in the past. About three years ago, President Joko Widodo, widely known as Jokowi, also vowed to relocate the capital city to the province of East Kalimantan.

Nusantara is expected to serve as the centre of government, while Jakarta would remain the business and economic centre of Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

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