– Nusantara, the official name for the future capital of Indonesia, is set to be inaugurated on August 17, 2024, coinciding with the celebration of Indonesia’s 79th Independence Day. The new capital, planned to replace Jakarta, which has served as the capital since 1961, will be located on the eastern coast of Kalimantan Island, currently part of East Kalimantan province. Spanning an area of 2,560 km2 (990 sq mi), Nusantara will boast a landscape of hills, forests, and bays.

Construction of Nusantara began in July 2022, with land clearing and road construction for the first phase, including the central government office area, schools, and hospitals, commencing the following month. Initially, 100,000 workers from across Indonesia were slated to be deployed to the Nusantara site to kickstart construction in July 2022.

The project faced criticism from local organizations in East Kalimantan for importing labor from outside the province. President Joko Widodo directed the Jakarta Provincial Government to increase the participation of local workers to between 150,000 and 200,000 to ensure their involvement in the Nusantara construction.

The idea of relocating Indonesia’s capital was first considered in April 2017 by President Joko Widodo’s administration, aiming to assess potential alternative sites for the new capital by the end of 2017. Subsequently, visits were made to two locations in Kalimantan, Bukit Soeharto in East Kalimantan and the Triangle Area near Palangka Raya in Central Kalimantan.

In April 2019, a 10-year plan to relocate all government offices to the new capital was announced. The National Development Planning Ministry recommended three provinces – South Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, and East Kalimantan – as suitable locations, free from earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes.

On August 23, 2019, President Joko Widodo submitted Presidential Letter R-34/PRES/08/2019, along with a Presidential Study Report on the Capital Relocation and a Request for Support from the House of Representatives for the Capital Relocation. During his 2019 state of the nation address, Joko Widodo announced the plan to move the capital to Kalimantan.

A portion of Kutai Kartanegara Regency and Penajam Paser Utara Regency in East Kalimantan will be carved out to create a new planned provincial-level city at a more central location in Indonesia. This plan is part of a strategy to reduce development disparities between Java and other islands in the Indonesian archipelago and to alleviate Jakarta’s burden as the country’s primary hub.

The National Development Planning Ministry estimated relocation costs at Rp466 trillion (US$32.7 billion), with the government intending to cover 19% of the cost, while the remainder would come primarily from public-private partnerships and direct investments by state-owned enterprises and the private sector. Additionally, Rp692 trillion will be allocated to prevent Jakarta from sinking over the next decade.

By early September 2021, the Capital Relocation Bill had been completed. On September 29 of the same year, the Joko Widodo government submitted an omnibus bill on the capital relocation to the People’s Representative Council. Among many items stipulated in the bill, it contained plans for the formation of the Capital Authority, a special agency responsible for the new capital, answerable to the President. This new agency would have quasi-ministerial qualities, with appointees being designated by the President but with specialized governance capabilities similar to provincial governors. It would also regulate how the Capital Authority would manage its funding, taxation, fees, and assets.

On February 15, 2022, the bill was enacted into Law Number 3 of 2022. To ensure project security and continuity after Joko Widodo’s presidency, the People’s Consultative Assembly reintroduced amendments to the law to reestablish its authority in establishing the State Guidelines, similar to the New Order’s General Guidelines.

Following Bambang Susantono’s inauguration as head of the authority, provinces nationwide ceremonially sent parcels of land and water from significant historical or cultural sites in their respective provinces to become part of the foundation and essence of the new capital for the groundbreaking ceremony. Central Kalimantan brought pieces of land from a hill where Tjilik Riwut, a national hero from the province and a revered Dayak figure, is said to have meditated. East Kalimantan brought water and soil from Kutai Lama, the site of the Kutai Kartanegara kingdom’s founding. North Maluku presented a combination of soil and water from four major sultanates in Maluku, collectively known as Maluku Kie Raha: Jailolo, Ternate, Tidore, and Bacan. East Nusa Tenggara Province brought soil from seven districts in the province, while Bengkulu brought soil from Soekarno’s place of exile.

South Kalimantan brought water and soil from the former residence of respected ulama in the province, Zainal Ilmi and Syekh Muhammad Arsyad al-Banjari. Southeast Sulawesi presented soil and water from historical sites of the Buton Sultanate in Baubau. East Java also did the same from former sites of the Majapahit Kingdom.

The Ministry of Public Works and Housing held a design competition for the capital at the end of 2019, which was won by URBAN+ with the title Nagara Rimba Nusa. It was officially announced on December 23, 2019. The government pledged to collaborate in refining the final design process with the winning team, along with the second and third-ranked teams and international designers, until 2020. Designers from at least three countries, namely China, Japan, and the United States, have offered to be involved in the design.

The city is designed for sustainability, targeting 80% mobility supported by public transport, cycling, or walking. Surrounded by Kalimantan forests, it will draw all its energy from renewable sources, allocating 10% of its area for food production.

Construction was postponed until after the COVID-19 vaccination campaign was completed in March 2022. In March 2022, the Ministry again held a design contest for four structures: the Vice President’s Palace, the Legislative Office Complex, the Judicial Office Complex, and the Public Worship Complex alongside Lake Pancasila.

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