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Jakarta Post

Jokowi wants to see oxygen-rich forests in new capital

  • Marchio Irfan Gorbiano

    The Jakarta Post

Balikpapan, East Kalimantan   /   Wed, December 18, 2019   /   05:07 pm
Jokowi wants to see oxygen-rich forests in new capital President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo (left) and East Kalimantan Governor Isran Noor take a stroll during a visit to the proposed location of the country's new capital in Sepaku district of North Penajam Paser, East Kalimantan on Dec. 18. (Presidential Palace Press Bureau/Muchlis Jr)

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has emphasized that the development of Indonesia’s new capital ─ which is to stand in an area between North Penajam Paser and Kutai Kartanegara regency in East Kalimantan ─ would be done in an environmentally conscious manner.

Speaking after visiting the location of the would-be new administrative hub, Jokowi said that one of the most immediate priorities in the development phase was to build a nursery area for tree seedlings to rehabilitate forested areas within the new capital.

"I have instructed Environmental and Forestry Minister [Siti Nurbaya Bakar] to build a 100-hectare nursery that will accommodate millions of seedlings so that the [new capital] will be a verdant area full of oxygen," Jokowi told reporters in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, on Wednesday.

The new capital’s location on Borneo Island, which is strongly associated with extensive tropical rain forests that are often dubbed the world’s lungs, still has at least two areas that have good tree cover, namely the Bangkirai National Park and the Bukit Soeharto forest area.

As deforestation and illegal logging have continued in Kalimantan in the past years, concerns have been raised over what would happen to the remaining forests once the government starts building the new capital.

The 1,500-hectare national park, located in the Samboja district of Kutai Kartanegara, is a tropical rain forest conservation area, with trees as much as 50 meters tall and aged more than 150 years old.

Meanwhile, Bukit Soeharto is a 61,850-ha forest area located near the mid-point of the road connecting Samarinda and Balikpapan, the two largest cities in the province.

East Kalimantan Governor Isran Noor previously suggested that up to 410,000-ha of land be allocated for the new capital, with some 56,000 ha be set aside for the city’s core area ─ where the government center is to be built.

Jokowi said the government center ─ which would be home to presidential, ministerial and other state offices ─ was estimated to only need 5,600 ha, leaving plenty of areas that could be rehabilitated with trees.

As the government only wanted to use 19 percent of the estimated expense for the relocation ─ initially put at Rp 466 trillion (US$33 billion) ─ the President said that private sector participation was key to securing relocation and easing the burden on the state budget.

"We want to look for a source of financing that isn’t a burden on the state, whether through public-private-partnerships or private investments," said Jokowi.

Officials are currently drafting a presidential regulation regarding the establishment of a special authority to facilitate the relocation of the capital from Jakarta.

Jokowi said the new regulation was expected to be concluded and signed by next month so the body could start working as early as next year.

In the meantime, the government is also in the process of submitting to the House of Representatives the draft of an omnibus bill on the relocation, which will amend at least 14 existing laws to facilitate the move.