JAKARTA, a megacity of 30 million people, is 40 percent under water and sinking fast. It is also beyond salvation, and the rising Java Sea and the drained-out aquifers have formed a toxic combination to frustrate all engineering and hydrologic interventions to save one of the biggest metropolises in the world.

Things are so desperate that a new capital is right now being built 800 miles away from Jakarta, and President Jokowi is hoping that Nusantara, the name of the new capital being carved out in the Borneo part of Indonesia, will be up and functional before his term ends next year. Is there an Indonesian equivalent of Oscar Niemeyer, the great Marxist architect who drew the master plan for what is now the Brazilian capital of Brasilia several decades ago? Rio de Janeiro was deemed too crowded and had hardly any space for growth, hence the decision to build a new capital.

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