Indonesia on Wednesday celebrated its first Independence Day in its future capital in east Borneo’s ancient rainforests, while the nation plans to move away from slowly sinking, traffic-calmed Jakarta.
Nusantara, 2,000 kilometers from Jakarta, is to become the new political center of the fourth largest country in the world.
It’s a legacy project from President Joko Widodo, but environmentalists have warned it could hasten the destruction of the tropical jungle that’s home to long-nosed monkeys and orangutans.
The government is preparing to ramp up infrastructure projects to open the gates to the city – which will cover about 56,180 hectares (216 square miles) on the island of Borneo – until Widodo leaves office in 2024.
“The main point (of the ceremony) is to take the spirit of the 77th Independence Day to strengthen our determination and spirit to build the new capital,” said Bambang Susantono, head of the State Capital Authority that will govern the new city .
After the national flag was raised by officials to mark the occasion, local workers cheered together that they were “ready to develop Nusantara,” which means archipelago in Indonesian.
Home to 30 million people in its metropolitan area, Jakarta has long been plagued by serious infrastructure problems and flooding, exacerbated by climate change.
It’s sinking by as much as 25 centimeters (10 inches) a year in some areas – twice the global average for large coastal cities – and some experts predict that up to a third of the megalopolis could be underwater by 2050.
Government officials say the new capital will take decades to fully complete and inhabit its projected population of two million, and will help spread economic growth in an underdeveloped region.
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