Why do Indonesians hate Malaysians

Escape from the flood

After much speculation, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced last week that the capital Jakarta should be relocated. For fear of flooding, overpopulation and traffic congestion, the seat of government is to be relocated to the northeastern island of Borneo.

Indonesia's capital Jakarta, a 30 million juggernaut, is sinking. The north is built on swamp by the sea and is regularly flooded. Thirteen rivers flow through other parts of the city, and they can also bring floods after rain. Rising sea levels as part of global warming could mean that Jakarta will go under in 2050. Nevertheless, the building continues to be vigorous. And below, deep underground, many residents pump water for their households. This leads to land subsidence. Flooding is possibly the most momentous, but not the only problem Jakarta has to contend with: overpopulation, traffic congestion and air pollution not only reduce the quality of life but also the life expectancy of its residents [i]. In addition, the economy and trade are suffering from the current situation: the Indonesian economy loses around four billion euros every year due to traffic jams in Jakarta.

All this convinced the President Joko Widodo, known among compatriots as "Jokowi", to move the seat of government to the northeastern island of Borneo, which the Indonesians call Kalimantan. Jokowis's predecessor in office had already toyed with this idea, but it was only he who presented concrete plans this year: the construction of a new one and a half million city in the east of Borneo is to begin next year. In 2024, with the end of Widodo's second and last term in office, the move is to begin. The price for all of this over ten years: 30 billion euros.

The new seat of government is supposed to relieve Jakarta and bring the government closer to remote parts of the country. Currently, almost 60% of the Indonesian population live on the island of Java, the smallest of the five main islands. Accordingly, the majority of the economy is also located there. The relocation of the government is intended to counteract this imbalance in cultural representation, income and access to political centers. In addition, Borneo is relatively spared from weather disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, which have occurred more frequently and more devastatingly in the rest of the country in recent decades.

A Jakarta resident is convinced of the advantages of moving: “It is also the right decision regardless of environmental reasons. The island of Java dominates too much within Indonesia - therefore it is in the interest of the state to reduce Java’s dominance. This leads to more information about other parts of the country, especially to a media focus on Kalimantan. That would be a big step in the right direction. "

Critics of the project criticize, however, that the money would be better invested in Jakarta to save the city from sinking or at least to mitigate the consequences. Above all, however, it is criticized that the costs for the move must primarily be paid by the environment: Kalimantan is one of the last natural habitats for orangutans; the rainforest there is already being cut down rapidly in favor of palm oil plantations and the paper and pulp industry. Environmental activists fear that the construction of the new capital could further threaten endangered species.

How successful even a planned and problem-free move would be in combating Jakarta's problems is debatable. Forecasts predict that the city will continue to grow. Jakarta is to replace Tokyo with more than 35 million inhabitants as the world's most populous city. In order to protect this mega-metropolis from sinking, a colossal wall against large waves is provided in the sea off the coast.

In the sinking Jakarta and in other cities in Indonesia, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom has been organizing educational events on climate protection since 2010. Since 2017, the foundation and its partners have been concentrating on infrastructure and more climate-friendly mobility in Jakarta and thus on fundamental problems of the city. The projects in cooperation with the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) call for more systematic coverage by public transport and the expansion of sidewalks. In addition, the population is appealed to to avoid transportation by car. Since cars and motorcycles are status symbols and getting around on foot is still unattractive and impractical, this is no easy task. The foundation awakens the necessary ecological awareness in cooperation with the Climate Institute, another Indonesian NGO, as part of seminars. These focus in particular on renewable energies and want to show participants opportunities to become active. The interactive events bring scientific knowledge to an understandable level and appeal to young people in particular.

As an archipelago of thousands of islands and with its large, rapidly growing population, most of which is located on the coast, Indonesia is at great risk from climate change. At the same time, the country is also one of the top ten greenhouse emitters worldwide. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom is therefore working for sustainable development in Indonesia - currently from Jakarta, but soon possibly from the new capital on Borneo

The author is Patricia Maissen, an intern in the Jakarta office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. The project manager for Indonesia and Malaysia is Dr. Almut Besold.

[i] According to this year's Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) report from the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), Jakarta's air pollution is reducing the life expectancy of residents by an average of 2.3 years.