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Empty words about Nusantara forest city

Tempo - March 13, 2024

Jakarta – The development of the Nusantara Capital City has the potential to cause massive environmental damage. The claim that it will be a sustainable forest city is just empty words from officials.

The government's claim that the Nusantara Capital City (IKN) will be a sustainable forest city has so far seemed little more than just empty words. What has happened on the ground is exactly the opposite: deforestation as well as degradation in areas designated as forests.

The United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has just released the results of satellite imaging of the IKN area between April 2022 and February 2024. These satellite images show the massive scale of the forest clearing in the last two years.

It seems that NASA is better at taking images of the real situation than the government is at polishing its image. Tempo analysis of the NASA satellite imagery reveals that in the area planned to be the IKN government center zone alone, the area of deforestation and degradation covers 2,464 hectares.

NASA's findings only show a small part of the change in function of the forest in East Kalimantan. The region has long been a soft target for land exploitation. Coal mining, industrial plantations, and palm oil plantations have taken over millions of hectares of natural forest.

This massive clearing and the resultant loss of forest cover automatically has the potential to lead to flooding and landslides. In the last two years, there have been frequent floods in the center of the IKN area in the Sepaku subdistrict, North Penajam Paser Regency.

The cause of the flooding is not only the intensive rainfall but also land exploitation that has resulted in the loss of the endemic trees that were primarily responsible for the retention of rainwater.

Ironically, President Joko Widodo continues to talk about moving the capital city to avoid Jakarta's floods. Perhaps Jokowi believes that floods will not follow the new president and vice president to the IKN. Who knows? But eventually, there will be repeated flooding in the new capital.

Apart from triggering floods, the development of the IKN is a threat to the biodiversity in the region. The area where the capital is to be built is a habitat for different types of plants and animals, including forests on land, mangroves in Balikpapan Bay and a number of endemic protected species, such as proboscis monkeys and Irrawaddy dolphins.

As well as this, the development of the IKN has also had a severe negative impact on local indigenous peoples. Since construction began, there have been many disputes between local people and companies as well as the IKN Authority.

Jokowi's ambition to move the capital has been criticized since the beginning. The development of the IKN was not based on thorough planning. The State Capital Law was drawn up in a hurry. The environmental study that was the basis for the development plan of the IKN was also hastily completed – simply a formality to allow the project to begin immediately.

When it learned that there was insufficient funding, the government claimed that many investors were lining up. However, so far, these promises from investors have been no more than words. What has happened is that the state has allocated Rp72.8 trillion in funding. This does not include funds from state-owned companies forced to undertake projects at Nusantara.

With so many problems remaining unsolved, the plan to move the capital should simply be stopped. The next government would do better to focus on resolving more urgent problems than continuing a project that has the potential to lead to disaster.

– Read the complete story in Tempo English Magazine

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/1844397/empty-words-about-nusantara-forest-cit