The Future of IKN and the Threat of Accelerated Deforestation on the Island of Borneo

How will the future of the Indonesian Capital City (bu Kota Nusantara – IKN) in Paser Penajam, East Kalimantan, unfold after President Jokowi’s tenure post-2024?

This still leaves a significant question mark!

It has become a topic of discussion and a trending subject in our WhatsApp group. One member wrote, “Myanmar failed to relocate its capital city because its citizens were reluctant to move to the new capital. Will we be in a similar situation?”

In 2005, the Myanmar government announced a plan to move the country’s capital from Yangon (previously known as Rangoon) to Naypyidaw. The purpose was similar to Indonesia’s plan, aiming to reduce traffic congestion and improve government efficiency. Naypyidaw was built from scratch as a new capital with modern infrastructure, government offices, and other administrative buildings.

However, there has been much speculation and debate about whether the people of Myanmar were genuinely reluctant to move to Naypyidaw. The relocation was sudden and relatively unexpected, and the residents may not have had many choices in the matter. Some reports and sources indicate that many government employees may have been compelled to move to Naypyidaw to keep their jobs, even though they might have had initial doubts.

Additionally, issues such as the lack of public facilities, limited access to quality education and healthcare services, and Naypyidaw’s geographic isolation may have made some people uncomfortable with the capital relocation. Nevertheless, definitive statements about the extent to which Myanmar’s citizens were “reluctant” to move to Naypyidaw are challenging to measure objectively.

Since then, the political and social situation in Myanmar has undergone significant changes, including political crises and conflicts that may have influenced people’s perspectives on the capital relocation. Therefore, the statement can be viewed as controversial and subject to interpretation.

We cannot speculate that the Indonesian Capital City (IKN) will face the same fate as Myanmar after President Jokowi’s tenure. That’s why one of the leaders proposed an idea for exploration – to assess the possibilities, potential, and obstacles, similar to a SWOT analysis. If, for instance, we participate and become part of the relocation of IKN to East Kalimantan, it is only a plan.

Differences of opinion and debates are inevitable. There are pros and cons, as is customary.

The first challenge, of course, is that moving IKN is not a straightforward matter. It involves relocating a densely populated area to a sparsely populated one, unlike moving goods. In Kalimantan, there is customary land, or “tanah ulayat,” claimed by indigenous communities since before the formation of Indonesia. From 1973 to 2010, the area that remained lush and pristine was the region inhabited by the local Dayak people. There was no deforestation, no mercury, and no environmental pollution due to mining.

Deforestation is a certain consequence of the IKN relocation. Industrialization, mining, and land areas for plantations will further encroach upon the green areas of Borneo. The issue of transmigration has faced significant resistance in Kalimantan, considered unfair. Many demonstrations have rejected transmigration as a program.

Imagine this: Transmigrants are provided with land, their relocation costs are covered, they receive land certificates, and their livelihood is guaranteed for several years. On the other hand, local residents are not granted ownership certificates. Thus, transmigration as a program has caused problems rather than resolving them.

A safer and better approach is spontaneous migration, according to the theory. If the relocation of people occurs through market mechanisms and natural processes, the issues might be more easily addressed.

Now, the land near the IKN area faces problems like double land certificates, among others. Thus, relocating people as part of a program is not straightforward, especially in an era of transparency where people are aware of their rights and can fight against perceived injustices.

There is a banner that reads, “Where the land is stepped on, there the sky is upheld. Respect our traditions!” What does this mean? It seems we do not fully understand it.

Nonetheless, the migration of people to IKN, with all its complex issues, is a significant obstacle.

We will have to wait and see. Will we be like Myanmar or Malaysia?

If IKN relocates to East Kalimantan, it is inevitable that industries, plantations, the real sector, and various mega-projects will thrive there. It’s important to consider the existence and sustainability of the local population from now on. What will happen to the legitimate heirs of the forest, customary land, and ancestral heritage they have held for thousands of years?

One undeniable fact is the increasing pace of deforestation. Traditional farming practices have now been permitted by regulations and laws. Will these traditional farmers be held responsible for deforestation while those engaged in deforestation escape accountability?

Observing the increasing presence of companies and mining in Borneo and their “development” activities that sometimes clash with traditional values and methods, we feel genuinely concerned.

Save Our Soul (SOS) for Borneo! Please pay close attention to this link. Act as swiftly as possible! The original Borneo forest has started to deteriorate due to selective logging, fires, and conversions into plantations on an unprecedented scale since industrial-scale extractive industries began in the early 1970s.

However, there is still “hope” for saving the authenticity and originality of Borneo’s forests. Who can do it? The local residents who have proven to protect it for thousands of years.

Source of Illustration:
2. Appearance of Dayak people in Krayan: Proven to Preserve the authenticity and natural beauty of theisland of Kalimantan, the ancestral homeland/doc. Bibliopedia

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