With Jakarta jammed and sinking, the government has chosen Borneo as the site of its new capital, which it promises to make a “forest city.”
The first phase of the new city will encompass nearly 5,000 acres. Construction of this phase is planned to begin in 2021 and be finished by 2024, according to the news site Mongabay. The entire city, targeted for completion in 2045, will occupy about 495,000 acres of land, two-and-a-half times the size of New York City. The Indonesian government says at least 50 percent will be open green space, with parks and gardens,1 as well as a zoo and a sports complex, “integrated into the natural landscape such as hilly areas and river systems,” in the words of planning minister Bambang Brodjonegoro.
It’s all part of a grand strategy to make Indonesia’s capital a “forest city”—one that will not only leave Borneo’s protected forests undisturbed, but will also “restore the environment in Kalimantan,” Brodjonegoro said.
- 1. In May, environmental advocate Dwi Sawung of the nonprofit Indonesian Forum for the Environment warned that most of the area’s land is peatland, a type of carbon-rich wetland consisting partially of dead vegetation that is often drained and burned to make way for palm-oil plantations. “[The builders] might need to do preliminary work, like digging and solidifying the peatland, before starting to construct infrastructure for the new capital,” he told the Jakarta Post. That could lead to more fires and air pollution.
One urban-planning expert also told Bloomberg that more deforestation can be expected as Indonesia builds out the new city’s infrastructure. “New roads cutting through forest areas break the continuity of the forest cover and typically more slash and burn deforestation happens in their vicinity,” said Petr Matous, a lecturer at the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Engineering. That, in turn, will likely lead to more forest fires in a country that’s seen an increase in the number of climate changed-related wildfires in recent weeks.