Jakarta (ANTARA) - Indonesia is looking to Australia’s capital Canberra as a reference for its capital city in East Kalimantan, part of Kalimantan or Borneo Island where its remaining tropical rainforest, often called “the world’s lung,” remains intact.

Over 50 percent of Canberra, known as the Bush Capital, is gazetted as a national park or reserve. Green spaces are scattered across the city, and kangaroos regularly grace Canberra’s suburban streets. This is in line with the Joko Widodo (Jokowi) administration's aspiration to realize a smart and forest capital city and leave behind crowded and polluted Jakarta.

For materialization of the plan, the Indonesian government establishes cooperation with the University of Griffith, according to the Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry. The design will be drafted through cooperation and collaborations among various domestic and foreign parties, including the Griffith University in Australia, Agus Justianto, head of the ministry's research and innovation development department, revealed on Oct 11, 2019.

In fact, the government had initiated cooperation with Griffith University since 2002. The renewed agreement was inked by Justianto and Deputy President of Griffith University Professor Sarah Todd in Brisbane, Australia, on Oct 10, 2019.

The existing cooperation has resulted in the formation of a Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development for Indonesia (CESDI), which was founded in February 2007. The CESDI's mission is to build capacity for more sustainable development and environmental management in Indonesia and across the region. Its main focuses encompass the application of SDG principles, low-carbon development initiatives, and climate resilience in the next capital city.

"Through this cooperation, the CESDI can make the new capital city in East Kalimantan a laboratory for sustainable development at the footprint level," he stated.

The Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry confirmed that the design of the new capital city, to be located in East Kalimantan, will apply the principles of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The planned capital city is expected to become a vanguard of the new civilization of Indonesian people that is environment-friendly and sustainable, Justianto stated.

Australia has been viewed as a success story for the relocation of its capital city to Canberra, known as the Bush Capital, as it was encircled by forest and located in a hinterland area. National Development Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro has, time and again, drawn reference to Canberra for Indonesia's plan to move its capital from Jakarta to East Kalimantan.

This comes after the government announced that parts of the districts of North Penajam Paser and Kutai Kertanegara in East Kalimantan Province would be the location for the country’s new capital, expected to be inaugurated in 2024, the year when Jokowi’s second term will end.

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President Jokowi informed the media on August 26, 2019, that the two districts were selected, as they faced the least risks from natural disasters, including floods, earthquake, tsunamis, forest fires, and landslides.

The government has made assurance that development of the capital city will not harm the environment and vowed that East Kalimantan’s forests will remain intact.

The planned capital city will have an accommodation capacity of three million. In the initial stage, its capacity will merely be 1.5 million on a plot of land measuring 40 thousand hectares, but it could be expanded to 180 thousand hectares in the subsequent stages.

"There is a reserve of 180 thousand hectares. It's (capacity) could reach over 1.5 million and up to double, or three million (population). The number of civil servants to be transferred will be some 200 thousand people that is already included in the 1.5 million," Brodjonegoro explained.

The project is expected to cost up to Rp466 trillion (US$32.3 billion) to be covered by the State Budget (Rp74.44 trillion), Public-Private Partnership scheme (Rp265.2 trillion), and private investment (Rp127.3 trillion).

The development will be supervised to ensure no environmental harm, with the activities being limited solely for government offices and educational purposes, among others, he noted. The government will involve the public’s participation in deciding the design for the new capital city area by inviting them to propose ideas on city planning.

In the meantime, Environmental Affairs Minister Siti Nurbaya affirmed that the concept of the new capital city in East Kalimantan will encompass restoration of the environment at the Bukit Suharto Forest Park and adjoining areas.

The relocation will include the simultaneous restoration of the environment in the districts of North Penajam Paser and Kutai Kartanegara in East Kalimantan, she revealed. President Jokowi has instructed to conduct restoration of the ecosystems of Bukit Soeharto Forest Park, Balikpapan Bay, and several others in tandem with the development of the new capital city.

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The relocation of the capital city should neither be viewed as a matter of concern nor should it elicit skeptical reactions, as it would also prioritize environmental improvement, the minister emphasized.

East Kalimantan Province has been reeling from environmental issues, including former mine pits.

"Hence, the plan to build the capital city there can also serve as a momentum to solve the problems. Hence, it could be implemented positively," Nurbaya explained.

Nurbaya has made assurance that her ministry will safeguard unique ecosystems existing in East Kalimantan in a sustainable manner. The new capital city development concept, which is a smart and forest city, is a theory that concurrently focuses on environmental improvement, she pointed out.

She revealed that a Strategic Environmental Study (KLHS) of the new capital city is expected to be completed in November 2019. The KLHS is in line with Government Regulation No. 46 of 2016 on KLHS for major projects.

However, the plan to move the capital city to Kalimantan has triggered reactions from the public, in general, and environmental organizations, in particular, as Kalimantan is home to extensive forest areas and is a habitat of endangered orangutans and other endemic flora and fauna.

Greenpeace Indonesia has voiced its concerns over the plan, as it will necessitate the conversion of forest and land for development and will consequently impact the environment. Developing a new city without assigning prior consideration to the environment will lead to issues similar to what Jakarta is witnessing, Greenpeace Indonesia Director Leonard Simanjuntak cautioned.

The environmental NGO emphasized that development of the new capital must not impinge upon protected areas or nature reserves, as that would certainly cause additional deforestation and threaten endangered endemic species, such as Kalimantan orangutans (pongo pygmaeus).

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Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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