Well, there goes the capital.
Indonesia’s capital city, Jakarta, has major problems: pollution, congestion, earthquakes . . . Oh, and it’s literally sinking. All that has brought about a serious government decision: It’s time to bail on the capital and build a new one on the island of Borneo.
You may have heard of Borneo in the context of conservation. The island currently is home to orangutans, leopards, and many other kinds of threatened wildlife that need protection from habitat destruction. Is this the right spot for a 990-square-mile city building project?
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has big ideas for the new capital, called Nusantara. He plans good housing, infrastructure, and public transportation, all with more nature but fewer natural disasters. He hopes for a fresh start.
Of course, the move will come at a price. On paper, the new capital will require about $32 billion. But the costs go deeper. Some Indonesians worry the new city will just bring the old city’s problems to a beautiful and rare part of the natural world. Builders will have to construct government buildings and houses from scratch before as many as 1.5 million people move in.
More than 17,000 islands comprise Indonesia. Of these, more than half of Indonesians dwell on the island Java where Jakarta sits. As the Indonesian economy grows, so does this city of over 10 million. All those people need water. Strangely, that is the reason Jakarta is sinking. Its people don’t have enough clean water to drink.
In Jakarta, water pipes reach people only in certain parts of the city. Everyone else has to drill wells—far more wells than Jakarta has space for. As so many people drill down, the ground around the wells starts to sink in on itself.
People on Jakarta feel trapped. Many are fishermen who need to live beside water. In some places, the island might sink between four and 10 inches each year. After years and years of flooding and rebuilding, some have chosen to live in their boats.
God has promised us a city that will never sink, and we wait for that perfect heavenly home. (Hebrews 13:14) Every earthly city has problems. A capital move can help when a city grows too big for the place it was founded. Will that be the case in Indonesia? Maybe for some people. But not everyone—or even most everyone—will be able to move to Borneo. What about those left behind in Jakarta?
Experts say that as much as one-third of Jakarta could be under water by 2050. That sounds like a long time from now—but the ambitious builders will be racing the clock. They hope to have people moved to the new city by 2045.
Why? Every earthly city has problems that require wisdom to address. We look forward to a heavenly city planned and built by God in His ultimate wisdom.