JAKARTA: The announcement to relocate Indonesia‘s capital city to East Kalimantan province provides an opportunity to shift the developmental focus to other parts of the archipelago, but environmental pitfalls will need to be avoided, said experts and activists interviewed by CNA.
Economist Kresnayana Yahya from ITS University in Indonesia’s second-largest city Surabaya said the government‘s decision provides a good opportunity to develop Kalimantan and other parts of Indonesia.
Urban planner Ahmad Gamal agreed, adding that there may be other positive outcomes.
“If an official criticises the government services at the location where he or she lives, the parties involved will feel obligated to improve things,” said Mr Gamal, who is with the University of Indonesia.
Thus, the government decided to move the current capital from megacity Jakarta which has a population of 10 million people to a less crowded area in the dense jungles of Borneo island, home to the critically endangered species orangutan.
The new capital, which the president announced on Monday (Aug 26), would be located partly in Penajam Paser Utara regency and partly in Kutai Kartanegara regency in mineral-rich East Kalimantan province. The government has said it would be a smart and green city.
The move to relocate the capital has been in discussion since 1957 when Indonesia’s first president Soekarno proposed to move the Dutch colonial capital from Jakarta to Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan.
Second President Soeharto later planned to move it to Jonggol, West Java in 1997.
About 13.83 million hectares of permits have been granted and 5.2 million of them are mining permits, the NGO claimed.
KIARA, an NGO focusing on fishermen’s livelihood, noted that the capital’s relocation will affect the livelihoods of coastal communities that are dependent on marine and fishery resources in Balikpapan Bay.
It said more than 10,000 fishermen catch fish daily in Balikpapan Bay. Of this figure, 6,426 are from Kutai Kartanegara, 2,984 are from North Penajam Paser, and 1,253 are from Balikpapan.
“The threat now besides being a traffic lane for coal barges, Balikpapan Bay will be the only logistical route for the ne of the construction of a new capital,” said Ms Susan Herawati, Secretary General of KIARA, adding that East Kalimantan does not yet have zoning regulations on coastal areas and small islands.
JATAM also claimed the citizens were not consulted. “The citizens have the right to express their opinion and this was clearly denied … East Kalimantan residents, including its indigenous people weren’t given the chance to express their voice,” JATAM’S spokesman Merah Johansyah said in a statement.
“We need the full commitment of the government, not only at the planning stage but also at the implementation stage, that the interests of ecological conservation are not sacrificed for the purposes of moving the capital,” he told CNA.
PLANNING FROM A CLEAN SLATE
This aerial picture taken on Jul 31, 2019 by news outlet Tribun Kaltim shows a view of the area around Samboja, Kutai Kartanegara, one of two locations proposed by the government for Indonesia‘s new capital. (Photo: AFP / TRIBUN KALTIM / Fachmi RACHMAN)
Singapore is the best example when it comes to tropical city design. They (the government) need to study from various cases and learn from various sources. Not only from success stories, but also from failures,” he said.
He added that it cannot be “business as usual” and the planning ne to be comprehensive.
“It can’t be just another standard Indonesian city, meaning there have to be clear targets which are measurable. For example, the city which improves air quality from X to Y, with Y being good air quality level internationally.”
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He added that Kalimantan‘s climate is highly humid and the temperatures are always high. In this regard, the design ne to bear in mind these climatic conditions, especially in terms of wind and sun orientation, he said.