Building the City of Tomorrow: Nusantara’s Journey From Jungle to Innovation

Nusantara Indonesia From Space 2022 Annotated

Satellite image of Nusantara, Indonesia, captured on April 26, 2022, by the Operational Land Imager-2 on Landsat 9.

Nusantara Indonesia From Space 2024 Annotated

Satellite image of Nusantara, Indonesia, captured on February 19, 2024, by the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8.

The future site of Indonesia’s new capital saw rapid change between 2022 and 2024.

Since the summer of 2022, the jungles of eastern Borneo have undergone rapid change. Roads have been carved into the landscape and buildings erected near Balikpapan Bay in Eastern Kalimantan, as Indonesia builds a new capital city.

Jakarta’s Environmental Challenges

According to government officials, the development of the new capital on the island of Borneo was motivated in large part by the myriad of environmental challenges faced by Jakarta, Indonesia’s current capital. The city’s metropolitan area is home to 30 million people and has expanded considerably in recent decades. Frequent flooding, heavy traffic, hazardous air pollution, and drinking water shortages are common occurrences. Jakarta is also quickly sinking. Excessive groundwater withdrawals have contributed to subsidence rates of up to 15 centimeters (6 inches) per year, and 40 percent of the city is now below sea level.

Nusantara: A New Capital

In 2019, Indonesia’s president announced that the administrative center of the country would be moving from the populous island of Java to the sparsely populated island of Borneo. Construction on the new capital city, called Nusantara—an old Javanese term meaning “outer islands” or “archipelago”—began in July 2022 in an area of forests and oil palm plantations 30 kilometers (19 miles) inland from the Makassar Strait.

Construction Progress and Environmental Concerns

The images above show the site of Nusantara in April 2022 (upper) and in February 2024 (lower). They were captured by the OLI-2 (Operational Land Imager-2) on Landsat 9 and the OLI on Landsat 8, respectively. In the 2024 image, soil has been exposed for a network of roads carved into the forest. The initial stage of development involves constructing government facilities and other buildings for the expected initial population of 500,000 people, according to the project website.

Project plans stipulate that it will be a “green, walkable” metropolis, powered with renewable energy, with 75 percent of the city remaining forested. However, some researchers worry this land use change could harm the forests and wildlife in the region. The stretch of land and coastal waters being developed are rich in biodiversity and home to mangroves, proboscis monkeys, and Irrawaddy dolphins.

Although the site has changed substantially over the past year and a half, the city is far from being finished. Construction is planned to be completed by 2045.

NASA Earth Observatory images by Michala Garrison, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

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