Karuni Rompies, Jakarta – Indonesian President Joko Widodo has announced that he will move the capital of south-east Asia's largest economy away from the crowded main island of Java, decommissioning Jakarta for the first time in the country's history as an independent nation.
"The president chose to relocate the capital city to outside of Java, an important decision," Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro told a news conference after a cabinet meeting, adding that the administration had yet to pick a new location.
He said moving the capital should take between five and 10 years, citing examples such as Brazil, Malaysia and Kazakhstan.
Mr Brodjonegoro said the new capital should be in the geographical centre of the archipelago nation, should be in a place with a large availability of land that belonged to the government or state-owned enterprises, and was free from the threat of natural disasters, including the volcanos, tsunamis, land erosion and forest fires to which Indonesia is prone.
It should be an existing city with an airport and a seaport, and have 30,000 to 40,000 hectares of available land and clean water, he said.Loading
These conditions make it a difficult task to find a suitable place in Indonesia, but it means the island of Kalimantan (Borneo) or Sulawesi are the most likely options.
Jakarta, a port city, is sinking at a rate of 7cm per year, and much of it now lies below sea level. Its rivers are polluted.
Greater Jakarta is the fourth most populated city in the world and is horrendously congested, so procuring land for government projects including roads and public transport projects has made addressing its problems difficult.
However, much of the rest of the nation is prone to the natural disasters the freshly elected president says he is keen to avoid.
In remarks at the start of a limited meeting of his cabinet, Mr Joko agreed that the relocation of the troubled capital had been discussed for at least 60 years, and by virtually every Indonesian president.
"But no decision has ever been taken, and a thorough plan has never been made," he said.
A visionary government would ask whether Jakarta in the future could "carry two burdens simultaneously as the centre of the government and the business centre?" Mr Joko said.
"I believe that, if we prepare well from the start of the process, then, God willing, we will be able to bring this big idea into being".
Mr Brodjonegoro said the country was losing billions of dollars per year through traffic congestion, with commuting times for many people four to five hours per day.
Java itself – which carries more then half the country's population – is itself reaching its environmental carrying capacity, Mr Brodjonegoro said, as agricultural land was being converted to housing.
– With Reuters