It is a dilemma for megacities from Rio de Janeiro to Lagos to Manila.

For decades, the magnetic pull of jobs has drawn people today from the countryside into these boomtowns. And now, the site visitors is hell, sewers overflow and trash piles up. Add to that the looming specter of increasing seas, possibly swallowing complete neighborhoods as this century grows hotter.

But in Indonesia — property to Jakarta, its crowded and polluted capital — the president has a program.

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He is, in quick, providing up on Jakarta as a seat of government and preparing to bail to a tropical island.

The city and its environs hold roughly 30 million people today. That is a population bigger than in Australia, somehow crammed into an location smaller sized than Miami-Dade County. The resulting dysfunction bleeds the economy of an estimated $7 billion per year in productivity loss.

That is not sustainable, says President Joko Widodo. On Twitter, he has vowed to fulfill his “great vision”: constructing a capital that can flourish “50 to 100 years from now.”

So far, the specifics are sparse. But officials visualize a “smart city in the forest,” a new capital run on renewable power, exactly where you can drink the tap water (a dicey proposition in Jakarta) and far more than half of the city is covered in trees.

This eco-utopian capital will be constructed in Kalimantan, an Indonesian-controlled portion of Asia’s biggest island: Borneo. The precise web-site (close to an location named Kutai Kartanegara) is now mainly jungle.

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It will not remain pristine for lengthy. The government desires to move rapidly, beginning building inside two years and — in about 5 years —roughly 1.five million bureaucrats will move to the new capital, creating it far and away the island’s most populated city.

The word “Borneo” conjures virgin jungle, shrill birdsong and orangutans wandering by way of the mist. But at the moment, there’s a glaring trouble with the government’s vision, says Arie Rompas, an environmental activist from central Kalimantan.

The island is actually on fire. 

“It’s a actually terrible trouble,” Rompas tells The Planet. He describes complete cities bathing in yellow smoke, shuttering schools and sending the elderly to their sickbeds.

Every single year, components of Borneo (as effectively as other islands in Indonesia) go up in flames. These forest fires are triggered by little farmers and enormous corporate plantations alike — each of which torch away jungle to clear land for crops. (This involves palm trees, which make oils that go into goods lining US supermarket shelves: potato chips, shampoo, detergent and considerably far more.)

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These fires are so smoky that, in a actually terrible year, Indonesia can churn out far more carbon pollution than a single of the world’s worst emitters: the United States.

4 years ago, Rompas and other Kalimantan natives came collectively to sue the government, insisting officials have been not carrying out adequate to cease the devastating fires. In June, Supreme Court judges sided with the citizens, arguing the government was certainly lax in stopping the blazes — and that it really should present no cost care for these suffering from lung ailments.

Environmentalists are not opposed to a jungle capital per se, says Rompas, who stated it could even be a “good notion.” But they are jaded by the government’s track record on the island and have to have far more assurance that the new city will not bring Jakarta-style pollution to Borneo.

The city is anticipated to take up far more than 600 square miles, about the size of Chicago, and constructing it will need mowing down substantial tracts of jungle.

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For now, as Borneo burns — forcing far more than 100,000 locals to seek healthcare care — the government is attempting to reverse its reputation for negligence. Officials are at the moment investigating plantation firms and rounding up practically 200 people today suspected of beginning fires.

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