Indonesia unveils construction site of new capital city


Penajam Pasar Utara, Indonesia – An orange-red turf has broken out in the jungle of eastern Borneo, where the Indonesian government has begun construction of its new capital city.

Officials promise a “sustainable forest city” that puts the environment at the center of development and aims to be carbon-neutral by 2045. habitat for endangered animals such as the orangutan and displaces indigenous people who depend on the land for their livelihood.

Indonesia began construction of the new capital in mid-2022, when President Joko Widodo announced that Jakarta – the congested, polluted current capital that is prone to earthquakes and rapidly sinking into the Java Sea – would be retiring capital status. Will go

The plans for the new capital – nearly twice the size of New York City – are grandiose. Officials claim to be building a futuristic green city focused on forests, parks and food production that uses renewable energy resources, “smart” waste management and green buildings.

Speaking about the city’s design and its ability to respond to future challenges, Nusantara National Capital Authority Chairman Bambang Susanto said, “We have to think beyond what is happening today and try to deal with things of the future “

Digital renderings shared by the government show a city surrounded by forest, with people walking on tree-lined footpaths and walking paths, ponds, clean creeks and buildings with plant-covered roofs surrounded by lush forest.

The building architecture is inspired by modern urban towers combined with traditional Indonesian architecture: the presidential palace in the shape of an eagle – a mythical bird and the national symbol of Indonesia – and other buildings that combine traditional architecture used by surrounding indigenous groups in a stylistic fashion. Gives hints. Archipelago.

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In its current state, the new city is a far cry from the neat finish presented by its planners, but there is progress. Indonesia’s Minister of Public Works and Housing Basuki Hadimuljono said in February that the city’s infrastructure was 14% complete.

About 7,000 construction workers are clearing, plowing and building the first phase of the site. Labor dormitories, basic roads and a helipad are already in use. The construction of major buildings like Rashtrapati Bhavan is expected to be completed by August 2024.

Sites visited by The Associated Press in early March showed mounds of fresh soil with excavators and cranes around them. At least one site has a sign with a QR code that visitors can scan to see 3D visualizations of what the area will look like when finished; Others have posted signboards showing what is to come.

The government has said that it is working keeping the environment in mind. There are visible signs of a more conscious approach to construction: tree trunks have been cordoned off to protect them from machinery, with officials promising that a plant nursery has already started for the re-planting process And industrial forest surrounds the site.

But with construction ramping up this year, environmentalists warn that building the metropolis will accelerate deforestation of one of the world’s largest and oldest stretches of tropical rainforest. Forests, known as the lungs of the world, suck planet-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and are home to many wildlife species. The island is already compromised by palm oil plantations and coal mines.

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Dwi Saung, an infrastructure expert at the Indonesian Forum for the Living Environment, an environmental NGO monitoring the new capital project, said the government’s plans did not consider the region’s unique wildlife such as orangutans and sun bears Is. The new city passes through an important animal corridor.

“The animals should be shifted first and then the construction should be built,” he said. “But since they needed to hurry, they built up the area without first moving the animals.”

Experts have expressed concern about how the new capital will get electricity. While the government promises that the city will rely on a “smart energy” system, groups are concerned that some of the area’s coal-fired power plants could be used up in the short term.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, Indonesia has significant energy potential from solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, wind and other sources, but only 12% of them are utilised. And while user-friendly public transport may keep cars off the city’s roads, there will likely be extensive air travel between the new capital and Jakarta, some 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) apart.

Indigenous groups who live in the region and have already lost parts of their land fear that urban sprawl from the new capital could make things worse.

Officials have vowed to respect indigenous rights and compensate those who lost their homes. Local officials said they would verify all land claims and accept documents proving ownership, but much of the territory is passed down through families without paperwork and not all tribal areas are formally recognized .

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“We do not want to be shifted. We don’t want them to remove the graves of our ancestors, or make changes or remove our historical site,” said Sibukdin, an indigenous community leader who like many in the country uses only one name. and live in Sipaku, which is very close to a ward. construction area.

Susanto said Indigenous residents have “some options for them to be involved in the process” including compensation, relocation or sharing ownership of stores that open.

“We’re always going to persuade them and tell them about the future of the city,” he said. “Hopefully they understand it’s for everybody.”

But as Indonesia continues to woo investors, construction is moving forward, with the government planning to inaugurate the city on August 17 next year, which will coincide with Indonesia’s Independence Day.

“Nusantara is the city for tomorrow,” said Susanto. “It will become a vibrant city, not just a government city.”

Tarigan and Milko reported from Jakarta. AP photographer Achmad Ibrahim and videographer Fadlan Siam contributed to this report from East Kalimantan, Indonesia.

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