Tuesday, November 12

Exclusive: New Indonesian capital to be a ‘forest city’ (Video)

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East Kalimantan’s Governor speaks to The Sunday Post in an exclusive interview on Indonesia’s aspirations for the country’s new capital. Don’t miss the special feature in The Borneo Post tomorrow on our journey through Balikpapan and Samarinda

THE new Indonesian capital in East Kalimantan (Kaltim) will be a ‘forest city’ to ensure it remains sustainable for future generations, according to province Governor Isran Noor.

He said the new capital, located between North Penajam Paser and Kutai Kartanegara Districts, is designed to have at least 70 per cent of “open green space”.

“A city isn’t designed and planned to last a few years but till the end of time,” Isran told thesundaypost and its sister daily Utusan Borneo recently in Samarinda, the capital of the Indonesian province of Kaltim.

The development of the new capital is scheduled to start in 2021, with the first phase to be completed in 2024. The whole undertaking will cost IDR466 trillion (RM139 billion). The site will take up about 250,000ha — four times larger than Jakarta’s roughly 60,000ha.

A proposed map of the new capital’s layout.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced the new site on Aug 26, after revealing his plan in May this year to relocate the capital from Jakarta, citing overpopulation on the island of Java and the need for more equitable development of the country.

According to Isran, the masterplan of the new capital includes residential and office buildings, settlements, and commercial areas. The population will consist mainly of government employees, making it possible for large swathes of land to be covered in lush greenery.

By 2045, the new capital is expected to cover over 200,000ha and the Indonesian government has made it clear no protected forests will be touched in the development of the new capital.

President Joko Widodo visited KM46 of the highway in Kaltim before announcing it would be the location of the new Indonesian capital.

Within the proposed site, forest reserves such as Hutan Lindung Sungai Wain and Taman Hutan Raya at Bukit Soeharto will have vital roles in ensuring sustainability.

“Bukit Bangkirai is where the orang-utan sanctuary is located. It’s one of the tourist attractions in East Kalimantan,” Isran said.

Bukit Bangkirai is situated in Samboja District, Kutai Regency, between the trans Balikpapan-Samarinda at KM38.

Major feature

He pointed out that forest conservation is a major feature of the new capital’s masterplan as Kalimantan and neighbouring countries, Malaysia and Brunei, are known as ‘Paru Paru Dunia’ (Lungs of the World).

Isran holds up thesundaypost and Utusan Borneo in his office.

“This fact cannot be ignored. The vast forests need to be sustained,” he said, adding that Indonesia has the world’s third largest tropical rainforest areas after Brazil and Congo.

The Governor revealed Kaltim was picked by the central government to be the site of the new capital after a three-year study, taking cognisance of the province’s vast natural resources such as oil, gas, and coal and its location in the centre of Indonesia, which is free from earthquakes and natural disasters such as typhoons and tsunamis.

“Two major cities are also located there — Samarinda and Balikpapan, which are served by international airports. Extension of the airports with more terminals is in the pipeline,” he said.

The international seaport in Balikpapan will continue to handle the province’s main export of raw coal. A major 99km-toll highway linking Balikpapan and Samarinda will also shorten the travelling time between both cities — from about three hours by car on the present road to about one hour 30 minutes on the highway connecting the areas of Penajam Paser Utara (PPU) as a part of the new capital.

On electricity and water supply, Isran said the number of rivers and tributaries will be enough to develop the area for another 50 years.

“With the new capital in place, neighbouring countries under BIMP-Eaga (Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Philippines East Asean Growth Area) will benefit from the positive economic impact. Borneo Island will have the capital cities of two nations (Indonesia and Brunei) and three countries (Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei). There’s nowhere else on Earth like what we will be having in Borneo.

“The strategic proximity between our new capital and the two capitals of Sarawak and Sabah will produce rippling economic effects. With the international airports in Samarinda and Balikpapan, the tourism sector such as that of Sabah will benefit greatly from the flow of travellers,” he noted.

The Bukit Soeharto route is flanked by tropical forests.

Government land

On land issues, highlighted by certain local and foreign news media, Isran clarified they did not arise as most the land on the proposed site belongs to the government.

“Native Customary Rights lands are located mostly in the rural areas and the south side of East Kalimantan. There are migrants from the Java islands. Some have land but this can be resolved easily.”

On the prospect of a railway network in Borneo, he said such a project would add value to the whole island.

“We have to develop the network throughout Kalimantan – from the North, South, East, West and Central provinces – with the possibility of extending it to Kuching.”

On cross-border crimes such as smuggling and human trafficking, Isran said in the real world, such things could not be avoided.

“A zero crime rate is almost impossible. There will always be some negative elements. That’s life,” he said.

Tomorrow we will have a report on our team’s visit to Pontianak, Balikpapan, and Samarinda.