Satellite images reveal new Indonesian capital springing from pristine jungle

Indonesia's capital of Jakarta is sinking, so they're building a new one in the jungles of Borneo

Satellite images reveal new Indonesian capital springing from pristine jungle
PENAJAM PASER UTARA, INDONESIA - JANUARY 12: An aerial view of the construction multi-story building on the site of Indonesia's new capital city Nusantara in Sepaku, Penajam Paser Utara District, East Kalimantan, Indonesia on January 12, 2024. Indonesia has started to build Nusantara as the new capital city on the 56,180 hectares area in East Kalimantan province as the new capital city is expected to replace Jakarta in the second semester of 2024. (Photo by Firdaus Wajidi/Anadolu via Getty Images)
Cranes tower over the construction of multi-story buildings at Nusantara in Sepaku, Penajam Paser Utara District, East Kalimantan, Indonesia on January 12, 2024 (Picture: Firdaus Wajidi/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Indonesia’s new capital can already be seen emerging from the jungles of Borneo.

Satellite imagery shows the dramatic change in just two years as a patchwork of roads are carved into the previously pristine green landscape, where bit by bit, buildings replace trees.

But greenery won’t be completely absent from the new city of Nusantara, on the east coast of the Indonesian island of Borneo, when it’s complete by the target date of 2045.

Expected to span 990 square miles, the planned city will include a sprawling urban complex interlaced with waterways and lush green spaces, with up to three quarters of the preserved for nature, according to artists’ renderings.

The site of Nusantara, Indonesia's new capital under construction on the island of Bornea, April 26, 2022. See SWNS story SWMRindonesia. Fascinating satellite images show a new capital city springing from a pristine jungle. Before and after pictures show the progress in less than two years of Nusantara, as Indonesia creates infrastructure on the island of Borneo. Jakarta, the country's current capital on the island of Java, is beset with environmental challenges. The city?s metropolitan area is home to 30 million people and has expanded considerably in recent decades. NASA's Earth Observatory says:
The site of Nusantara, Indonesia’s new capital, back in April 2022 before construction started that July (Picture: Landsat/NASA/SWNS)
The site of Nusantara, Indonesia's new capital under construction on the island of Bornea, February 19, 2024. See SWNS story SWMRindonesia. Fascinating satellite images show a new capital city springing from a pristine jungle. Before and after pictures show the progress in less than two years of Nusantara, as Indonesia creates infrastructure on the island of Borneo. Jakarta, the country's current capital on the island of Java, is beset with environmental challenges. The city?s metropolitan area is home to 30 million people and has expanded considerably in recent decades. NASA's Earth Observatory says:
By February 2024, sprawling roads and buildings had replaced forest and palm oil plantations at the site of Nusantara on the island of Borneo (Picture: Landsat/NASA/SWNS)

It’s expected to replace the country’s current capital of Jakarta, a sprawling and rapidly expanding metropolis of 30 million people 620 miles away.

This isn’t just a symbolic move toward centralisation for a government historically criticised for focusing policies too much on the island of Java, home to Indonesia’s capital and more than half its population.

Jakarta has been wracked by environmental problems

Aside from chronic traffic jams and toxic air, the capital city is sinking.

The land it’s sat on is subsiding and the sea level is rising.

With severe rainfall and frequent flooding, a quarter of the city could be underwater by 2050.

NASA’s Earth Observatory says: “Frequent flooding, heavy traffic, hazardous air pollution, and drinking water shortages are common occurrences.

“Jakarta is also quickly sinking. Excessive groundwater withdrawals have contributed to subsidence rates of up to 15 centimetres (6 inches) per year, and 40 percent of the city is now below sea level.”

An Indonesian soldier holds a cat through floodwaters at Jatibening on the outskirt of Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. Severe flooding hit Indonesia's capital just after residents celebrating New Year's Eve, forcing a closure of an airport and thousands of inhabitants to flee their flooded homes. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
An Indonesian soldier carries a drenched cat through floodwaters at Jatibening on the outskirt of Jakarta, Indonesia during severe flooding in January2020 (Picture: Achmad Ibrahim/AP)
JAKARTA, INDONESIA: This areal photo taken from a helicopter shows a flood devastated area in Jakarta, 07 February 2007. Residents in Jakarta sifted through mud and debris to salvage their belongings as floodwaters that had engulfed their homes in and around the Indonesian capital began at last to recede. The slow clean-up operation got underway after days of flooding killed 50 people, according to a new toll, and forced several hundred thousand more to abandon their homes. AFP PHOTO/Bay ISMOYO (Photo credit should read BAY ISMOYO/AFP via Getty Images)
Houses submerged by floodwaters that killed 50 people and forced thousands more to flee their homes in February 2007 (Picture: Bay Ismoyo/AFP via Getty)
epaselect epa08245687 Residents walk in a flooded street in Jakarta, Indonesia, 25 February 2020. According the National Disaster Management Authority (BNPB), heavy rains triggered widespread flooding in Jakarta, with floodwaters reaching a depth of more than 150cm in some areas. EPA/ADI WEDA
Residents lead children down a flooded street in an inflatable boat when floodwaters reached depths of more than 150cm in some areas of Jakarta in February 2020 (Picture: Adi Weda/EPA)

Finding a new home for the city’s inhabitants and the country’s governing institutions has been a matter of urgency since Indonesia’s president announced in 2019 that the country’s administrative centre would be moving from Java to the sparsely populated island of Borneo.

If satellite imagery is anything to go by, Indonesia is making solid progress, despite concerns about the government only committing to covering 20% of the project’s costs.

The other 80% it hopes to raise from international investors.

Images captured by the OLI-2 (Operational Land Imager-2) on Landsat 9 and the OLI on Landsat 8 reveal a stark contrast between the situation at Nusantara in April 2022 and February 2024 respectively.

Construction of Nusantara – an old Javanese term meaning ‘outer islands’ or ‘archipelago’ – only started in July 2022.

Already a network of roads carved into the forest has exposed the soil in an area formerly consisting of forests and oil palm plantations 19 miles inland from the Makassar Strait

Buildings can also be seen erected near Balikpapan Bay in Eastern Kalimantan n the 2024 image.

Government facilities and roughly half a million people are expected to be accommodated in the initial stages of the project, according to its website.

NASA’s Earth Observatory said: ‘Project plans stipulate that it will be a ‘green, walkable’ metropolis, powered with renewable energy, with 75% of the city remaining forested.

‘But some researchers worry this land use change could harm the forests and wildlife in the region.

‘The stretch of land and coastal waters being developed are rich in biodiversity and home to mangroves, proboscis monkeys, and Irrawaddy dolphins.’

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