Balancing new capital development with preserving orangutan habitat


The Joko Widodo (Jokowi) administration is accelerating the development of the new capital named Nusantara – an old Javanese word that reflects Indonesia’s archipelago status as a nation of 17,000 islands.

The government has chosen part of North Penajam Paser district and part of Kutai Kartanegara district in East Kalimantan province as the location for the new capital, often referred to as IKN.

“The most ideal location for the new capital is in part of North Penajam Paser district and part of Kutai Kartanegara district in East Kalimantan province,” President Widodo said at the presidential palace in Jakarta. on August 26, 2019.

East Kalimantan is located on the island of Kalimantan or Borneo, known as the “lung of the world” due to its vast primary forests which are vital for absorbing CO2 emissions and thus mitigating the impact of climate change.

The new Indonesian capital will cover 256,142 hectares of land, four times the current size of the capital Jakarta, and 68,189 hectares of marine area.

However, the government has assured that the location chosen for the IKN project does not contain primary forests, but industrial forest areas.

He also assured that the development of IKN would not damage local forests, as natural conditions would be taken into account during construction.

“We must not perceive that our efforts to move the capital will damage the forests,” Widodo said on Feb. 22, 2022, while talking about the $32 billion IKN megaproject.

The government has pledged to ensure that 70% of the capital’s new area is set aside as green space to ensure the capital remains green, according to the president.

“The new capital will have many green spaces and forests. All aspects of the capital, including the transport system, water and electricity system, infrastructure, communications and public services, will be managed by modern technologies,” he said.

Apart from preserving the natural waterfront by maintaining the forest ecosystem, the authority is committed to rehabilitating several ecosystems that have been damaged, he said.

“Of the 256,000 hectares (of land purchased for) the new capital area, construction works will only be carried out on 50,000 hectares of land, while the rest of the 200,000 hectares will be preserved as is. We will also rehabilitate damaged ecosystems by developing tree nurseries that would produce at least 20 million tree seedlings per year,” Widodo informed.

The President assured that the buildings of the new capital will showcase the greatness of the nation, reflect the national identity and demonstrate social, economic and environmental sustainability.

“It is a leap forward for the people of Indonesia to transform the nation into an advanced Indonesia,” he said.

President Widodo signed the State Capital Law No. 3 of 2022 on February 15, 2022 and installed Bambang Susantono as head of the Nusantara Capital City Authority and Dhony Rahajoe as Deputy Director in Jakarta on March 10 2022.

Susantono, who graduated from the Faculty of Civil Engineering at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) in 1987, was AfDB’s Vice President for Sustainable Management and Development since July 2015. He also served as Deputy Minister of Transport from 2009 to 2014.

Prior to his appointment, Rahajoe was the managing director of a private real estate company, Sinar Mas Land.


Kalimantan and the island of Sumatra are the only two places in the world where orangutans can be found in the wild.

Kutai Kartanegara has been home to the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) Semboja Lestari Orangutan Rehabilitation and Reintroduction Center since 1991.

Given the proximity of orangutan habitat to the new capital, the Office of Presidential Personnel (KSP) has assured that the government will protect orangutans in Kalimantan (Morio Pygmy Pongo) during the IKN development process.

Wandy Tuturoong, the KSP’s leading expert, said the government has conducted several studies on the capital development plan, including a strategic environmental study (KLHS) in the capital region.

The government has also prepared several planning documents, including the Nusantara Capital Master Plan, which envisions the capital as a “forest city”.

The study recommended five roadmaps for environmental recovery and improvement. Two of the roadmaps relate to improving the quality of wildlife, including orangutans, and restoring tropical rainforest ecosystems, he said.

“Therefore, it is not only orangutans that need to be protected in the IKN zone, but also other wild animals, such as kuwuk cats, migratory birds, estuarine crocodiles, clouded leopards, monkeys langur and turtles,” he said.

For the protection and preservation of animals, the government will provide animal corridors, with canopies and animal signs, in accordance with Regulation No. 23 of 2019 of the Minister of Environment and Forests, he said. added.

The Director General of the Ministry of Environment and Forests for the Conservation of Ecosystems and Natural Resources (KSDAE), Wiratno, confirmed that the IKN authorities will develop an animal corridor around the capital.

Data from 2016 pegged the number of orangutans in Kutai Kartanegara at 14,540, with their population spread across 17 landscapes, including Beratus, Sungai Wain, Kutai – Bontang National Park, Belayan – Senyiur, Wehea – Lesan, Sangkulirang , Tabin, North Kinabatangan, Ulu Kalumpang, Crocker, Lingkabau, Bonggaya, Ulu Tungud and Sepilok.

“The closest orangutans to IKN are only found in the Sungai Wain landscape. These orangutans found in Sungai Wain are orangutans that have been rehabilitated,” Wiratno informed.

Environmental NGO activists have expressed concern that the IKN project, which is expected to displace up to 1.5 million people in the new capital, could prove disastrous for the environment.

Earlier, Anton Nurcahyo, Deputy Managing Director of BOSF, had expressed concern that the relocation of the capital to Kutai Kartanegara could lead to major changes in orangutan habitat in surrounding areas, although he did not there is no orangutan habitat inside the IKN site.

“But the orangutan rehabilitation center is located here, in a forest area of ​​1,850 hectares, and the current state must be preserved,” he said.

He stressed that it is crucial for the IKN authorities to have a mitigation plan, tailored to the specific environmental requirements, to preserve East Kalimantan’s unique ecosystem.

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