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Smart city, Amaravati PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 22 October 2015 07:35
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AP’s capital could be the template for future cities

 

Amaravati, the new capital of Andhra Pradesh (AP)—prime minister Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone later today, on Dussehra—could well be the test bed for urbanisation in modern India. AP which currently does not have a capital of its own is sharing space with Telangana in Hyderabad. Since the AP secretariat needs to move out of Hyderabad in 10 years, AP chief minister Chandrababu Naidu’s plan for a new capital makes eminent sense. Amaravati, being built on the banks of the Krishna River is India’s first greenfield smart city and could well be the precursor for more such cities. The Amaravati seed capital area (SCA)—as designed by Singapore’s Surbana Jurong—spread over 16.9 sq km with an 8-kilometre frontage on the Krishna, will be the core of the city, housing government offices, business districts and a population of about 3 lakh people.

To build the city spread over 217 sq km—the capital region itself is planned at 7,420 sq km—the AP government has pooled 33,000 acres of land so far. Here, the owners sign over ownership rights to a single government body, which develops the land. Once done, it returns a smaller portion back to the original owner along with a fixed annual payment for 10 years. As the land gets developed, the value of the smaller portion could exceed the original value of the landholding. By doing that, Naidu has circumvented the problems arising over forcible acquisition of land. Amaravati incorporates many new ideas that are critical for a large city, including transit-oriented development, modern waste collection and disposal mechanisms and maintaining the ecological balance with green spaces. By getting the Singaporeans to help design and build the city, Naidu has given Amaravati a veneer of class. All this while, it has been about conceptualising the city. Once Modi lays the foundation stone, the real work begins, and that includes financing the city over the next 10-15 years. While the Centre will no doubt contribute to funding the city—Naidu has repeatedly reminded the Centre of its duties to the bifurcated state—a very large part of the funding has to come through the PPP route. While getting PPP is a challenge in even cities that are already developed—many highways have seen toll booths being vandalised by mobs and many PPP projects have had to go to the government for bailouts—getting them for a new city is going to be even more difficult, especially since land values in the area have already shot up dramatically. How Naidu manages to structure these PPPs and attract private investment—and gets people to pay for the services so as to make the PPPs viable, after a certain government subsidy perhaps—will be the template for several other cities in the future; land pooling, similarly, has been tried before, but not on the scale that Naidu has done so far and needs to plan for.

 

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