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Jakarta Post

Bukit Soeharto: This forest park in East Kalimantan could be Indonesia’s new capital

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, May 9, 2019   /   09:35 am
Bukit Soeharto: This forest park in East Kalimantan could be Indonesia’s new capital President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (third left), along with other officials, looks at a map on a visit to Bukit Soeharto in Kutai Kartanegara regency, East Kalimantan, on May 7. Bukit Soeharto is one of several areas that is being considered as the new capital city. (Antara/Agus Salim)

After the plan to relocate the country’s capital city gained momentum following a recent Cabinet meeting, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo named Bukit Soeharto (Soeharto Hill) in East Kalimantan a suitable place for a new capital city due to its adequate infrastructure. 

Despite the recent buzz, however, Bukit Soeharto has yet to become a household name and is relatively obscure compared to other, better-known candidates for a new capital city such as Pontianak in West Kalimantan and Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan. 

The question remains: What makes Bukit Soeharto Jokowi’s unlikely favored spot for a new capital city?

Bukit Soeharto is a 61,850-hectare forest in Kutai Kartanegara regency, East Kalimantan. The location can be reached by road in about one and a half hours from Samarinda and 45 minutes from Balikpapan, the two largest cities in the province.

The eponymous “Soeharto” in Bukit Soeharto refers to none other than the New Order leader, who was said to have traversed the forest on his way to Samarinda from Balikpapan during his regime, as reported by Antara news agency.

Through Agriculture Ministerial Decree No. 818/1982, Soeharto named the location the Bukit Soeharto Conservation Forest, which then covered 27,000 hectares. The government subsequently expanded the conservation area over the years until it covered 61,850 ha in 2004, when the Environment and Forestry Ministry declared it to be the Bukit Soeharto Grand Forest Park.

Jokowi mentioned that there was enough infrastructure surrounding the location. Bukit Soeharto is located at about the midway point of the toll road between Samarinda and Balikpapan. Both cities also have airports: Aji Muhammad Sulaiman Sepinggan Airport in Balikpapan and APT Pranoto Samarinda Airport in Samarinda.

Known as a Taman Hutan Raya (Grand Forest Park) in the province, the sprawling Bukit Soeharto is also home to local wildlife conservation groups such as the Wanariset Samboja Center of Orangutan Rehabilitation and Reintroduction. In addition, Bukit Soeharto is also home to Mulawarman University’s forest education site, according to kompas.com

According to experts, Bukit Soeharto’s current status as a national forest park could save the government a considerable amount of money allocated for land acquisition, since the entire area is state-owned. 

Previously, National Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said the government had invited leaders of four provinces – Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, East Kalimantan and West Sulawesi – to suggest locations for a new capital in their respective jurisdictions.

East Kalimantan Governor Isran Noor proposed the idea of relocating the nation’s capital city to Bukit Soeharto. 

The President said that, in addition to taking into account infrastructure, the capital city relocation efforts would also consider areas that are not prone to disasters. 

The idea to relocate the capital has been in place since the era of founding president Sukarno when he mentioned that Palangkaraya, the Central Kalimantan provincial capital, could be the nation’s capital. (rfa)