Indonesia is planning to relocate its capital from Jakarta, rekindling the decades-old debate over where the next administrative centre of the country should be. Plans are already afoot to shift the capital but the National Development Planning Board (NDPB), which is set up to study the viability of the move, believes it may not happen anytime soon.
The government last week announced that it intended to move the federal administrative capital from Jakarta and that it was aiming to start the relocation process within the next two years. But a decision on where the new capital will move to has not yet been made.
When the changes happen, Jakarta will still remain the business and financial centre of Indonesia, while the country will have a new and separate political capital like the US, Malaysia and India.
Reason behind the relocation move
The plans to uproot the capital were given a thought considering the choking traffic jam issues Jakarta faces, with reports suggesting that the city could face a teeth-grinding gridlock by 2020.
Jakarta is located on Indonesia's central island of Java, which dominates Indonesia politically, economically and culturally. Java is the most populated island on earth, hosting almost 60% of the country's population of 257 million.
According to the local media reports, the number of vehicles, including motorcycles, in greater Jakarta has almost tripled to 9.52 million in the past eight years.
Besides, Jakarta is also reported to be sinking. The overcrowded city is already 40% below sea level and according to Sydney Morning Herald, the areas of north Jakarta are sinking at a rate of up to 20cm a year due to groundwater extraction.
As a drastic solution to the expansive metropolis of Jakarta, which is also flood-prone and dysfunctional, the government has decided to relocate its capital.
However, some believe moving the capital from Jakarta would not solve the problem and have instead called for more efforts to resolve the issues the city is facing.
"The President has instructed me to study it further, and he wants the selected city to represent an ideal capital for Indonesia," NDPB's chief Bambang Brodjonegoro said last week. However, he did not reveal if the government has made a final decision of choosing the next capital city already.
When did the idea of relocation come up?
Discussions and debate about relocating the capital have frequently resurfaced. It was first mooted by the first president of the independent Indonesia, Sukarno, in 1957. He was the founding father of Indonesia.
It is reported that Sukarno's motive was in part symbolic as Jakarta was chosen as the country's capital by the Dutch. And in what was believed to be a move to sever ties with the country's colonial past, Sukarno floated the idea of changing the capital.
Sukarno took control of the country when The Dutch recognised Indonesia's independence in 1949 following guerrilla warfare for four years.
Which city would replace Jakarta?
Palangkaraya, which is the provincial capital of Central Kalimantan, could become the next capital, according to reports. However, it has not yet been confirmed by the government officially.
The city with its population of just 250,000 (as of 2014), is four times the size of Jakarta. But Palangkaraya and most of the cities in Kalimantan lag well behind in its infrastructural development, the Straits Times reported.
"Palangkaraya is suitable because of the availability of space," senior lawmaker Oesman Sapta Odang said on 7 July as he welcomed the move to shift the capital.
Such a plan would accelerate infrastructure development in Kalimantan, he added.
Relocating the capital will not only address Jakarta's overpopulation issues but also stimulate new economic centres outside of Java, another politician Zainudin Amali told Tempo news last week.
"If the capital is not moved, people will continue to flock to Jakarta," he said.
However, the country's environment planning expert Rudy Parluhutan Tambunan says that while Palangkaraya has so far been the popular choice, for now, it may not be fit for an ideal location as the administrative capital. The city is virtually landlocked.
"A key requirement for any central government is accessibility by sea, land and air, but because (Indonesia) is an archipelagic state, access from the sea is more important," he told The Straits Times.