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What’s a President to Do When a Nation’s Capital Is Sinking? Move It.

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This is Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia.


The audacious project to build a green and walkable capital city from the ground up.

Headway is an initiative from The New York Times exploring the world’s challenges through the lens of progress.

Before he led the world’s fourth most populous country, the president of Indonesia was consumed by an even more challenging mission: saving Jakarta.

For two years, Joko Widodo served as the governor of a capital city that seemed to teeter on the brink of ruin. Since Indonesia’s independence in 1945, Jakarta had expanded from less than a million people to roughly 30 million. It had grown tall with skyscrapers built with fortunes made from timber, palm oil, natural gas, gold, copper, tin. But the capital had run out of space. It grew thick with traffic and pollution. Most of all, Jakarta was sinking, as thirsty residents drained its…

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