efe-epaJakarta

Indonesia has announced a plan to be finalized this month to transfer the capital from Jakarta - overpopulated and sinking up to 20 centimeters (7.9 inches) in several areas - to another city, which remains undisclosed.

National Development Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said in early December that the ministry will present the evaluation of the viability of different cities in becoming the next capital to President Joko Widodo.

The report will cover the localization, financing plans, and estimated needs, but not the design of the city, according to Brodjonegoro.

The minister refused to reveal the probable cities currently under consideration, although Public Works Minister Basuki Hadimuljono said in July they were considering cities in three provinces on the Borneo Island.

Brodjonegoro had corresponded with reporters this year and noted that meetings to study the transfer will be held during 2018 and 2019, and it will take another three to four years to construct government buildings.

Jakarta would remain the business and financial capital, hence it remains unclear how the transfer would help ease the problems caused by overpopulation in the city of more than 10 million.

Nearly 40 percent of the city is already below sea level and one of the measures to prevent the problem from worsening is a construction of a large sea wall in Jakarta Bay.

However, according to Peter Letitre of the Dutch consultancy Deltares - one of the firms advising the Indonesian government on water management projects in the capital - the real cause of the sinking capital is the extraction of groundwater.

Tokyo had experienced similar problem before the city stopped extracting groundwater in the 1970s, Letitre told EFE.

Letitre said that northern Jakarta has the highest rate of subsidence, ranging between 15 and 20 centimeters per year.

The northwestern part of the city is sinking at a rate of seven to 10 centimeters per year, while it is between two and four centimeters in the northeast, making Jakarta among the fastest sinking cities in the world.

At the moment, the plans to suspend the extraction of groundwater, which requires alternate supply of water and the increase of water recycling in industries and buildings, is still at an initial stage to map out the most affected regions.

On the other hand, the seawall project, which included the creation of 17 artificial islands, has faced financing problems and has been rejected by nonprofits and residents' associations over environmental and social impact, besides corruption scandals.

This month, the Save Jakarta Bay Coalition, made up of human rights groups, ecologists and fishermen, has asked the parliament to stop the construction of artificial islands.

In Pluit, one of the fastest sinking neighborhoods in northern Jakarta, Nur Kahajatun said that the residents cannot extract water from wells because of the proximity to the ocean, however their houses have suffered the consequences of the extraction taking place in other regions.

By Ricardo Perez-Solero