Indonesia’s leader says 1st phase of new capital is 80% complete and he’ll have an office there soon

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday said construction of the first phase of the country’s ambitious new capital is 80% complete and he will have an office there once clean water is available next month.

“I am very optimistic about the office. We are still waiting for one more thing, the water, in July,” Widodo said in front of the construction site of the new presidential palace in Nusantara on the island of Borneo.

Widodo told reporters during his visit to Nusantara that the new capital will be officially inaugurated during celebrations for the republic’s 79th Independence Day in August.

Widodo has been in Nusantara since Tuesday, a day after the surprise resignations of the head of the Nusantara Capital Authority, Bambang Susantono, along with his deputy, Dhony Rahajoe, for unexplained reasons. Widodo said the resignations were “personal” and were unlikely to hamper future foreign investment in the project already valued at $32 billion.

During his visit, Widodo is inaugurating several construction projects in Nusantara, including a water reservoir. He is also attending groundbreaking ceremonies for schools and universities.

Widodo said Nusantara’s airport is scheduled to be completed by early August.

Construction of the new city began in mid-2022 after Widodo announced that Jakarta would no longer have capital status. The metropolis suffers from pollution and congestion, is prone to earthquakes and is rapidly sinking.

The new capital is to be about twice the size of New York City. Officials say it will be a futuristic green city centered around forests and parks that utilizes renewable energy sources and smart waste management.

But the project has been plagued by criticism from environmentalists and Indigenous communities, who say it degrades the environment, further shrinks the habitat of endangered animals such as orangutans and displaces Indigenous people who rely on the land for their livelihoods.

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