Goodbye Jakarta, Hello Nusantara

Sydney, Jan 21: Indonesia has named its new capital Nusantara after lawmakers approved the shift from Jakarta to Kalimantan, a jungle-covered area on the east of Borneo island.
The new capital name means “archipelago” in Javanese. For those residing in Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore, for them ‘Nusantara’ also represents the Malay archipelago.
It also represents the extent of the Malay cultural influence that comprises Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, south Thailand, Philippines, Brunei, and East Timor. Several Monash University lecturers have weighed in on the decision of the name and capital change and here is what they have to say.

Alex Lechner, Associate Professor Urban Design, Monash University, Indonesia
“Borneo is the third-largest island, and along with the Amazon, its oxygen-rich jungle is considered the Earth’s lungs. It is one of the few remaining habitats suitable for species like orangutan, and conserving its forests is vital for addressing both the biodiversity and climate crises. 
“There are serious concerns globally over the environmental consequences of the new Indonesian capital in Borneo. Decades on from the construction of Brasília, which facilitated the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, there have been irreversible global environmental consequences. 
“The indirect spillover impacts of Indonesia’s planned capital across the whole of Borneo are likely to be far greater than the direct impacts within the city boundaries, unless carefully managed.  
“A key goal for the new national capital must be to ensure the protection of Borneo’s ecosystems in order to preserve its natural capital, and sociocultural values for future generations. While there’s considerable pressure on the Indonesian government to avoid these, the commercial gains may be hard to ignore.”

Alyas Widita, Assistant Professor Urban Design, Monash University, Indonesia

“Recent research shows that Jakarta residents are ranked among the lowest in terms of walking steps compared to other cities around the world. 
“Our analyses of the data from the most recent large-scale transportation survey for the Jabodetabek region also paint a similar picture.
“The design of the new capital needs to look beyond the established public infrastructure construction standard, that has so far overlooked active travel, if it is going to set the standard as “Kota Paling Berkelanjutan di Dunia” or the world’s most sustainable city. 
“It would be a missed opportunity if the new capital’s design made it dependent on unsustainable modes of transport such as motorcycle- or auto-dependency found in many Indonesian cities.”

Associate Professor Liton Kamruzzaman, Art Design & Architecture 

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for urban planners to be involved in the planning of a new city from the scratch. However, this is itself a great challenge – planning a city that keeps an ecosystem intact, particularly where world’s richest biodiversity can be found.
“The planners need to think beyond technology to make a smart city smarter. Ultimately, a city is for the people and they should be the centre of thinking. Joko’s promise appears to go beyond smart tech to be green and sustainable. 
“Planning for an entire new city within a year, however, seems rushed to put it mildly. Planning is a long-term process, it starts by identifying and understanding the context, including biodiversity, ecosystem, existing population, potential future population and economy.
“There are many intricate steps required in effective planning, each requiring scientific evidence and careful evaluation every step of the way. There is no shortcut – all new cities should have a purpose and economic impetus behind it to function – it is not just an amalgamation of buildings and streets.

Adjunct Associate Professor Eka Permanasari, Monash Art, Design & Architecture

“The design of a capital city aims to symbolise national identity and pride. Most designs contain public memorials which acknowledge the history and the country’s vision. However, conflict often emerges between the constructed story and the symbolism.
“Several studies of capital city and representation of power and identity in urban forms often overlooked the semantic layout of planning and how it conveys the constructed meaning. There should be an analysis of the meaning and symbolism emerged from the masterplan in terms of constructing the new national identity.
“In Indonesia’s case, the design of the main capital city has changed from the competition result to the final approved design. The symbolism and the shape of Garuda as the presidential palace now become the key image of unifying the fragile multicultural nation.
“Amid some controversies, the design is the new attempt to convey the national identity insinuated in urban form. The new law also declares the new Indonesian capital city as ‘Nusantara’, the term that is commonly used to describe Indonesia as an archipelagic nation (from Sabang to Merauke).  This naming triggers controversies, whether the new capital city truly represents that meaning in terms of the physical form and symbolism.”

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