Indonesia wants to spend $33 billion to move its sinking capital hundreds of miles. Here's what the flooded city looks like.

Ed Wray/Getty ImagesMen sit on ferries near a new apartment complex in the rapidly sinking city of Jakarta.

Jakarta is on track to become the world’s largest megacity, but it could soon lose a good portion of its residents.

The Indonesian government recently approved a plan to move the capital 100 miles away from its current location on the island of Java. Though the central bank and financial institutions would remain put, between 900,000 and 1.5 million of Jakarta’s residents could be headed for a new address.


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The entire project would take around ten years and require a $US33 billion budget, but it might be the only way to protect Jakarta’s 10 million residents from flooding.

After a seven-decade reign as Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta faces the growing challenge of sea level rise, which threatens to submerge entire swathes of the city by 2050. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that Jakarta’s land is sinking up to 6.7 inches per year due to excessive groundwater pumping.

In recent years, floods have devastated homes, vehicles, and local businesses, particularly in Jakarta’s poorer neighbourhoods. Take a look at the damage.


Jakarta is home to more than ten million residents. The metropolitan area is more than three times bigger.


The city is on track to surpass Tokyo as the world’s largest megacity by 2030.

Harismoyo/shutterstockJakarta’s streets are some of the most congested in the world.

Jakarta currently rests on swampy land in a low-lying basin along the Java Sea.

Dasril Roszandi/NurPhoto/Getty ImagesResidents walk through floodwaters in Jakarta on April 26, 2019.

Nearly half of the city sits below sea level, making it extremely vulnerable to floods.

Agoes Rudianto/Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesA young boy stands in flood water after heavy rain in Jakarta in February 2016.

Only a quarter of Jakarta’s residents have access to piped water, which means many of them have to drill for it underground.

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty ImagesA food vendor pushes his cart along a residential neighbourhood in June 2008.

The drilling process is also less expensive than paying for water utilities.


This excessive groundwater pumping has turned Jakarta into the world’s fastest-sinking city.

Tubagus Aditya Irawan/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty ImagesJakarta’s Port of Muara Baru.

Jakarta’s land is sinking at a rate of up to 6.7 inches per year.


As the land dips lower, sea levels have gotten higher due to climate change.

Anton Raharjo/NurPhoto/Getty ImagesA sinking mosque in North Jakarta on May 18, 2017.

The devastating combination of floods and subsidence threatens to submerge entire swathes of the city by 2050.

Agoes Rudianto /Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesA man wades through a flooded street in a residential area near Jakarta on April 22, 2016.

To combat this issue, Jakarta’s president, Joko Widodo, has approved a plan to move the capital 100 miles away from its current location.

Donal Husni/NurPhoto/Getty ImagesA February 2019 flood was made worse by the city’s poor drainage system.

The entire project would take around ten years and require a $US33 billion budget.


The government still has to choose an alternate spot, but the state media outlet has said they’re considering Palangka Raya, a city on the island of Borneo.

Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty ImagesA river running through Palangkaraya town on Borneo island.

Though Palangka Raya has far fewer residents, Borneo is also prone to flooding.


Before arriving at this plan, the city struggled to control an annual stream of floods.

Anton Raharjo/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty ImagesAseng, 42, bathes behind the old concrete sea-wall as waves smash into it in 2016.

One of the most destructive floods took place in 2007. Around 70,000 homes were submerged and around 80 people died.

Adek Berry/AFP/Getty ImagesA boy transports residents through a flooded street in Jakarta in November 2007.

In 2013, another flood killed nearly 50 people. The damage was made worse by the city’s poor sewage system, which is often clogged with garbage and debris.


A year later, Jakarta decided to build a giant, 15-mile sea wall to protect the city from flooding.

Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty ImagesChildren play on the giant pipes of a flood control station built to protect Jakarta from sea water.

The estimated cost of the project is $US40 million.


Many oppose the wall on the grounds that it doesn’t address Jakarta’s sinking land.

Anton Raharjo/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty ImagesA new concrete seawall built on the old sinking wall in Jakarta.

Others worry that the construction would destroy local fishing communities.


The issue of flooding in Jakarta is often tied up with the city’s inequality.

Edi Ismail/NurPhoto via Getty ImagesResidents evacuate their goods during a massive flood in February 2018.

When wealthy communities pump groundwater, they cause subsidence in low-lying coastal areas.

NurPhoto/NurPhoto/Getty ImagesResidents watch TV while their house is flooded in February 2016.

These areas are often occupied by residents who can’t afford to live in the central business district or elite residential enclaves.

Ed Wray/Getty ImagesA former resident of a squatter neighbourhood cleans her flooded apartment in February 2014.

Limited access to water can keep low-income communities mired in poverty.


Moving the capital to a new location could eliminate some of the strain on Jakarta’s resources, thereby reducing inequality.


If Jakarta goes through with the plan, it won’t be the first city to move its capital.

Nigeria moved its capital from Lagos to Abuja in 1991, and Myanmar moved its capital from Rangoon to Naypyidaw in 2005. Egypt is also in the process of building a new capital city to replace Cairo.

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