Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Monday said that the country planned to shift its capital from Jakarta to a yet-to-be-named site on the island of Borneo, Reuters reported. The present capital has become overcrowded, polluted and is gradually sinking into the sea.

Jakarta, on the island of Java, is home to 10 million people and is often clogged due to traffic and has the threat of earthquakes. The proposed capital will include parts of North Penjamin Paser and Kutai Kartanegara in the country’s East Kalimantan province.

“It is a strategic location at the centre of Indonesia, close to growing urban areas,” Widodo was quoted as saying. He also said that preparations should begin now if the transition is to start from 2024.

The proposed capital is one of the regions that is least prone to natural calamities that the archipelago often faces. Widodo also said that economic and political reasons motivated the shift in the capital, adding that Jakarta was home to 54% Indonesians and generated 58% of its gross domestic product.

Widodo said that his government would fund 19% for the project and the remaining would come from public-private partnerships and private investment. Environment experts, however, have expressed concerns that initiating construction work in the middle of forests in Borneo could destroy the habitats of endangered wildlife, CNBC reported.

The project will cost the country 466 trillion rupiah [Rs 2.35 lakh crore], but traffic jams alone cost the country’s economy 100 trillion rupiah [Rs 50,400 lakh crore] a year, Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said. The country’s wealth was concentrated in the current capital and several Indonesians have complained about being neglected, according to BBC.

Indonesia has also attempted to decentralise for two years with a programme aimed to provide greater political power and financial assistance to municipalities. A bill will be submitted to the country’s Parliament to acquire approval for the new capital after which land acquisition would begin.

Also read: Does India need to shift its capital from smog-choked Delhi?

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