Jakarta is no longer the Capital of Indonesia: Here’s Why



Jakarta is the world’s fastest sinking city, and it is now clearer than ever that time is running out. Since 1945, Jakarta has proudly owned the title of being the capital city of Indonesia and is celebrated for its urban lifestyle with massive skyscrapers, vibrant nightlife and its appreciation of cultural diversity. However, because of dangerous floods and rapidly rising sea levels, Jakarta has recently been removed as the capital and been replaced with a new city, Nusantara, located in East Kalimantan.

Coastal cities around the world face the danger of rising sea levels because of climate change and other causes. According to Marymount’s Environmental Systems and Societies teacher: “Sea levels are rising globally as a result of ice caps melting due to increased temperatures caused by global warming.’’ She goes on to discuss other reasons for rising sea levels: ‘’The issue is aggravated by the continued extraction of oil and gas as well as groundwater.’’Jakarta is heavily reliant on the extraction of groundwater which is the main reason for its sinking. Many countries typically source water from reservoirs. For example, over half of the UK’s water supply comes from any of the 540 reservoirs in the region. However, Indonesia, which is around eight times the size of the UK, has only 100 reservoirs, which is why Indonesia has sought alternative methods of sourcing potable water. Jakarta has the second largest urban population with nearly 11 million people; therefore, a lot of water is required to sustain everyone. Over the years, residents of the city have been encouraged to privately source groundwater from at-home wells, and bigger buildings such as hotels and restaurants do the same. However, with the constant extraction of groundwater, the ground beneath Jakarta is sinking, meaning that a lot of land is being lost to the sea. According to a study by IPB University in West Java, Indonesia, it is estimated that land subsidence (the sinking of land) is as bad as 4.9cm a year in North Jakarta. Subsidence is seen all over the world, and as predicted by UNESCO, subsidence could affect 19% of the world by 2040.

It is predicted that Jakarta will be fully submerged by 2050 if the drilling of groundwater continues at its current pace, according to a 2019 study from Nature Communications. In order to combat the problem, the Indonesian Government decided that, to relieve pressure on the city, they are going to relocate and build the new capital city in a remote region of Borneo. Rising sea levels due to climate change and land subsidence have several detrimental impacts on the environment. According to the Environmental Systems and Societies teacher: ‘The environmental impacts of sea levels rising include flooding of areas, people being forced to migrate, loss of habitat. Planning and implementing strategies to reduce the impact is also very costly.’ Before the decision to relocate Indonesia’s capital was approved, I asked the teacher about whether this would be an effective strategy for combatting the rising sea levels, to which she responded: ‘This may be a solution for decreasing the population in Jakarta, however, I feel that more efforts should be placed into reducing pollution and climate change.’

The change in capital cities has several advantages. This provides a fresh start for Indonesia with a chance to build a fully sustainable city. Countries all over the world are planning to develop green cities, this is a great opportunity for sustainable development. In addition to improving sustainability, a lot of Jakarta’s inhabitants will join the relocation to Nusantara, and this will reduce water usage, consequently protecting Jakarta from further damage.

This change might also have some disadvantages, including the possibility of further neglect. A lot of government financing will go towards developing the new city, so what will happen to Jakarta? Currently, the Indonesian government are planning on spending 32 billion dollars to build Nusantara, which may result in the loss of funding towards saving Jakarta. Furthermore, this decision doesn’t change the present struggles of Jakarta’s inhabitants and the dangers of living in flooded areas. This method is a temporary solution and does not address the bigger problems surrounding climate change and land subsidence around the world.

Overall, while Jakarta is no longer the capital city, it remains a very important part of Indonesia and will continue to support many of the country’s inhabitants and represent the culture and identity of the beautiful country. The recent change to the governing city will not only provide an opportunity for relieving pressure on Jakarta but will allow for sustainable development in the new city. However, a lot of money is going into the development which has raised concerns about the future management and protection of the previous capital. The issues in Jakarta have raised global awareness about the sinking of coastal cities, and climate change in general, and has resulted in many governments assessing their own futures.



Edvin Aldrian. 2021. “Jakarta is sinking. Here’s how to stop this.” The Jakarta Post.


Mayuri Mei Lin & Rafki Hidayat. 2018. “Jakarta, the fastest-sinking city in the world.” BBC News.


—. 2021. “Our Dilemma: Use Drilling Well and Jakarta Will Be Submerged, Not Using Drilling Well And We Don’t Have Clean Water.” VOI.


—. N.d. “The World’s Most Populated Capital Cities.” World Atlas.