Jakarta is home to about 10 million people and three times that number in the greater metropolitan area. It has been described as the world’s most rapidly sinking city, and at the current rate, it is estimated that one-third of the city could be submerged by 2050. The main cause is uncontrolled ground water extraction, but it has been exacerbated by the rising Java Sea due to climate change. Its air and groundwater are heavily polluted, it floods regularly and its streets are so clogged that it’s estimated congestion costs the economy $4.5 billion a year. President Joko Widodo envisions the construction of a new capital as a nostrum for the problems plaguing Jakarta, reducing its population while allowing the country to start fresh with a “sustainable city.” Widodo’s plan to establish the city of Nusantara — an old Javanese term meaning “archipelago” — will entail constructing government buildings and housing from scratch. Initial estimates were that over 1.5 million civil servants would be relocated to the city, some 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) northeast of Jakarta, though ministries and government agencies are still working to finalize that number. Skeptics worry, however, about the environmental impact of building a sprawling 256,000-hectare (990-square-mile) city down in Borneo’s East Kalimantan province, which is home to orangutans, leopards and a wide array of other wildlife.Forest Watch Indonesia, an Indonesian nongovernmental organization that monitors forestry issues, warned in a November 2022 report that most of the forested areas in the new capital are “production forests” meaning permits could be granted for forestry and extractive activities that would lead to further deforestation. 

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