Home / Politics / Policy /  Amaravati kicks off as India’s newest capital city

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday laid the foundation stone for the development of Andhra Pradesh’s new capital, Amaravati, which would stretch across 7,420 sq. km. With only a few capitals to have been developed from ground-up in India, experts say that cultural ethos and overall development should be on the agenda.

Building a new capital is important for the state of Andhra Pradesh after it was bifurcated in June 2014 and Hyderabad became a part of Telangana. The state has till 2024 to build its new capital. In the meantime, Hyderabad will serve as the joint capital for the two states.

Stressing the need for urban development in the country, Modi said, “This location has historical and cultural heritage. Amravati shall come with a new look and become the people’s capital. Since independence there have been very few new cities that have been made. This is not how things should have been."

According to a master plan prepared by the Singapore government, Amaravati is set to be developed as a modern metropolitan city with towering structures, glass facades, a central boulevard, wide avenues and footpaths, a metro and riverway transport.

AGK Menon who is an architect, urban planner and conservation consultant, said: “It is very important that a capital be in tune with the cultural ethos of the place. A smart city also has to have a cultural artefact, it has to meet the other dimension of our needs as well. It is also important to remember that we are a poor country and as such what are the kind of buildings we will build? Restraint will help, a new capital city in a state should be a product of our circumstances, our means."

He added: “There also seems to be an automatic co-relation in India between building a capital city and a foreign architect (referring to Chandigarh and Le Corbusier). As an Indian architect, I am a bit concerned that why is it that they went to Singapore to find a planner? Why can’t they think of a local architect? They could have invited designs from architects across the country."

After independence, Chandigarh was the first planned city to be built in India.

States including Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand have also been divided in the last 15 years. While Jharkhand and Uttarakhand have developed existing cities of Ranchi and Dehradun as their capitals respectively, Chhatisgarh is working to build a new hub.

Since its sanction in 2008, work is still underway to develop Naya Raipur as the capital city of Chattisgarh. The city has been set up as the administrative and industrial hub of the state but is yet to attract permanent residents.

“What Naya Raipur has managed to achieve in terms of infrastructure is great but occupancy is a huge challenge. Building a new capital is not just about offices but also making it into a livable city. Creation of such a city where this can happen will be a challenge," said Debolina Kundu, associate professor at the National Institute of Urban Affairs.

Kundu added, “For Amravati, there are many challenges. There is also the technical issue that the land where the city is to be built is multi-crop. But one cannot be very pessimistic or positive about this till certain ground realities come up."

The Andhra Pradesh government has managed to secure land from farmers who in turn will get plots in the developed capital on the basis of their land holdings. To generate awareness within the state and involve the larger Telugu community outside the state, the state government has launched a programme to purchase a virtual e-brick at a cost of 10.

According to the Andhra government, the state has an area of 160,000 sq km spread across 13 districts with a population of 4.9 crores.

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