World’s Newest Capital City Seen Emerging From Space in Satellite Photos

Indonesia's new capital city emerging
The emerging capital city of Nusantara.

The world’s newest capital city has been captured emerging from the jungle in satellite photos taken from space.

Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country and its capital city Jakarta is one of the fastest-sinking capitals in the world.

Before: A satellite photo taken by NASA Space Observatory shows what the future capital of Nusantara looked like when it was still a jungle, april 2022
Before: A satellite photo taken by NASA’s Space Observatory shows what the future capital of Nusantara looked like when it was still a jungle on April 26, 2022.
New satellite photos taken by NASA Space Observatory show the world's newest capital city of "Nusantara" in Indonesia emerging on February 19.
After: Satellite photos taken by NASA’s Space Observatory show the world’s newest capital city of Nusantara in Indonesia emerging on February 19, 2024.

Since Indonesia’s independence in 1945, Jakarta has expanded from less than a million people to roughly 30 million.

Not only has the capital city run out of space and been consumed by traffic and pollution, Jakarta is sinking deeper and deeper into the ground and will one day cease to exist.

40% of Jakarta now lies below sea level and it is believed that 25% of the Indonesian capital will be submerged by 2050.

As a result, Indonesia announced that it would be moving its capital from Jakarta to a remote place called “Nusantara” in East Kalimantan deep in the jungle.

A Capital City That Doesn’t Exist Yet

As IFLScience reports, the ambitious plan of re-shifting the capital was put into Indonesian law in 2022, when the proposed site of Nusantara was merely a tropical forest.

Now, almost two years later, satellite images shared by NASA Earth Observatory, show how a capital city that doesn’t exist yet can be seen slowly emerging in the jungle.

In satellite photos taken by NASA Earth Observatory in April 2022, the area is seen from space as a vast green expanse of tropical rainforest.

However, in February 2024, NASA’s images from the same point of observation reveal how the settlement is gradually starting to take form into Indonesia’s capital city.

The new satellite images how the jungles of Nusantara have undergone rapid change and how soil has been exposed to install a network of roads.

In the photos from space, roads can be seen carved into the landscape and a scattering of buildings have been erected into the future capital.

Although the site has changed substantially over the past year and a half, the city is far from being finished. Construction is planned to be completed by 2045.

The move to Nusantara is part of Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s plan to save the people of Jakarta. The Indonesian government hopes to relocate up to 1.9 million people to Nusantara by 2045, with some civil servants moving as early as this year.

However, some researchers have expressed reservations about moving the capital. According to CNBC, Nusantara is estimated to cost around $35 billion to construct, but the government has only committed to investing 20% of the money needed, according to the project’s official site.

Jokowi’s administration hopes the remaining 80% of funding will come from foreign investors, but researchers told CNBC that there has been some hesitation about pumping money into the project, and that could further derail progress.

Image credits: All photos by NASA Space Observatory.