“Jakarta has a variety of issues,” says my colleague Hannah Beech, The Instances’s senior correspondent for Asia, “however its most existential one is that it’s sinking in some locations by as much as a foot a 12 months.”

Local weather change is a part of the rationale: The Java Sea — which surrounds Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital — is rising. However a good larger issue is that Jakartans, determined for entry to wash water, have dug hundreds of unlawful wells that successfully deflate the marshes beneath the town. Immediately, 40 % of Jakarta lies beneath sea stage, and flooding is more and more frequent.

The encroaching sea presents a risk to one of many world’s most densely packed cities, the place 10 million folks stay in an space about half the dimensions of New York Metropolis, and one other 20 million reside within the surrounding area. To take care of that risk, Indonesia’s in style president — Joko Widodo, in his ninth 12 months in workplace — has devised an audacious resolution: He’s transferring the nation’s capital.

The brand new capital, now below development, known as Nusantara. It’s being constructed from the bottom up, about 800 miles from the present capital. Joko guarantees that the town will likely be a mannequin of environmental stewardship, carbon impartial inside a couple of many years.

Not like Jakarta, which is in Java, the area that has lengthy dominated the nation’s politics and financial system, Nusantara is in Borneo, the place residents have felt ignored. “Indonesia is greater than Jakarta,” Joko informed Hannah on a current tour of Nusantara. “Indonesia is greater than Java. So we should make the capital in a spot that’s far-off.”

Nevertheless it stays unclear whether or not his grand plans will succeed. Joko desires the brand new capital to open subsequent 12 months, earlier than his second — and, by legislation, closing — time period as president ends. Not all his potential successors help the plan. And it appears to be not on time: No residential towers have been constructed, and the lead architect is nervous that the fast development schedule might compromise security.

“Folks need Nusantara to succeed as a result of it signifies that the creating world — regardless of all the issues that had been positioned in its path by the legacy of imperialism, by the legacy of colonialism — {that a} nation can succeed by itself phrases and generally is a profitable democracy and might create its personal imaginative and prescient for itself,” Hannah mentioned. “Nevertheless it’s a really, very difficult factor to do.”

Learn her story and see the pictures and movies that accompany it.

A brand new product: Immediately, we launched an iOS app for audio journalism and storytelling the place yow will discover Hannah’s story and lots of extra. Instances subscribers can obtain our new Audio app.

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