CHASING A CAPITAL DREAM
CHANDRABABU NAIDU AIMS TO MAKE PROPOSED NEW CAPITAL AMARAVATI A MODERN, COMPELLING DESTINATION FOR GLOBAL INVESTMENTS AND TALENT
My goal in this lifetime is to build up Amaravati as one of the world’s best cities. Ours will be a happy city, and one of the most livable,” declared Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, on July 15, while laying the foundation stone for SRM University, the first private varsity to commission a campus in the upcoming capital city. US firm Perkins & Will, who have done projects for several renowned US universities, are the master architects, while Sandeep Tiwari, a Cornell University ex-dean, will be the vice-chancellor.
“Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth) will come where there is Saraswati (the goddess of education),” added ex-Union minister and vice-presidential candidate M. Venkaiah Naidu. The campus, a Rs 3,024 crore project, is being envisioned as a public-private partnership model and will open in Neerukonda. Others, including VIT University, Amrita University and the Indo-UK
Institute of Health Care are to follow as vital institutions in the education hub of the fledgling capital.
“Education, health and industry are our primary targets for the new Amaravati,” says CM Naidu. The imperative is clear. The state’s resource crunch is because it does not have a capital like Hyderabad in contiguous Telangana. “Revenue resources will not improve without large cities. This is why we are developing nine sectors or theme cities, including ones for administration, finance, electronics, health, sports, within Amaravati,” says Naidu.
The Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA) has been constituted for the planned development of the capital region. The state has brought on board consultants from the UK, US, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore and other countries who will help make iconic capital city architecture and tap energy- and cost-efficient new technologies to meet urban challenges. A Singapore consortium, Surbana-Jurong, has prepared the overall master plan. The Centre for Livable Cities, Singapore, is to help APCRDA develop the Amaravati Planning and Design Research Institute, which will make innovation “an everyday habit” and help create an active environment for citizens and start-ups to contribute to city planning through open data systems.
Naidu has approved plans by the UK-based Foster & Partners for a Buddhist stupa-shaped high court (in recognition of Amaravati’s Buddhist roots), and a diamondshaped legislative assembly complex, which will house the state secretariat too. Construction of the assembly is to begin on September 30, on Dussehra and exactly three years after Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone during the festival in 2014. Work on the court complex is scheduled to start on October 30 and the state secretariat, in two blocks of four and six floors, in November. The chief minister is eager that the iconic structures rise, even if they are not fully ready, by March 2019, before the next assembly polls.
“There will be a 500-metre-tall iconic tower in the heart of the administrative city from where the entire capital can be viewed,” says minister for municipal administration and urban development, Dr P. Narayana. Gigantic statues of Dr B.R. Ambedkar and N.T. Rama Rao, the ruling TDP’s founder and legendary actor, are also to be installed in Amaravati. Significantly, to enrich their designs with elements of the culture, history and traditions of Andhra Pradesh, the architects have turned to Telugu fim director S.S. Rajamouli (of Baahubali fame).
Naidu’s hope is to develop Amaravati as the most habitable and vibrant urban sprawl, dotted with green and blue areas, where there would be no overhead electric wires or mobile towers and minimal pollution. “Happiness is the most dominant concept of the city, with greenery and water bodies pronounced on about 30 per cent of the 217 sq. km greenfield capital,” says Ajay Jain, principal secretary, energy, infrastructure, investment and APCRDA. “We are planning eco-friendly public transport besides 100 per cent wi-fi and affordable housing.”
The city’s design is such that public transport will be available within 2 km from any point. Spread-out water bodies, energy-efficient buildings, renewable energy sources and street-cooling concepts to ensure natural cooling, will keep temperatures in the capital at pleasant levels. Makki & Associates, a leading Japanese architecture firm, is designing some of the iconic buildings and Arcadis, the Netherlands-based engineering consultancy,
Naidu is eager that the Buddhist stupa-shaped HC complex and the diamond-shaped assembly complex rise by March 2019, before the next assembly polls
is designing the blue infrastructure featuring water bodies, reservoirs, ponds and lakes, the Krishna river drainage and canals. For the green plan, H.C. Patel, which developed the Sabarmati river front in association with GIIC of China, has been roped in.
Farmers and others have offered 32,500 acres under an innovative land pooling system. About 60,000 developed plots with a collective market value of Rs 4 lakh crore have been returned to them. The state is to develop roads, drainage and provide infrastructure for drinking water and electricity free of cost. For their livelihood, land owners will get Rs 30,000 an acre a year as annuity for 10 years. This is also being extended to farm hands and the poor in the 29 villages that form part of 21st century Amaravati. “We are giving the youth and women skill development training to help them get jobs in the service and manufacturing sectors. They are the real heroes. That’s why we are calling Amaravati the People’s Capital. The people are the owners as they hold 90 per cent of the developed property while 10 per cent vests with the government,” explains Naidu.
There are worries too. The CM accuses the Opposition of provoking farmers and getting them to file petitions, creating hurdles in the development process. “No one can obstruct the construction of the new people’s capital,” Naidu asserts. His appeal to the people ‘to donate a brick in a participatory approach’ has had little impact. As of July 24, the initiative where anyone can donate Rs 10 towards a brick to build Amaravati has a total of just 226,992 donors giving 5,663,455 bricks.
State employees are equally unimpressed and view the ‘capital building’ as a decade or more long exercise, going by the experience of new capitals like Raipur and Ranchi that came up after the state reorganisation in 2000. The alarming level of absenteeism (43 per cent in May) in the state secretariat at the interim government complex in Amaravati suggests that all is not well. Many of the staff are still Hyderabad-based, shuttling for the five-day work week, with attendance thinning on Monday mornings and Friday evenings. Naidu, ever the tech man, is now introducing a biometric system to enforce full attendance.
To quicken the pace of construction, the state entered into an MoU with the Singapore government in May, to develop the master plan and oversee implementation. A joint steering committee co-chaired by Naidu and Singapore trade and industry minister S. Iswaran has been set up for coordination. Ascendas-Singbridge, a leading Singaporebased sustainable urban space solutions provider, is betting big on the development of Amaravati. “Amaravati will be a game changer in India. A self-sustaining city providing multiple employment opportunities while ensuring health, wealth and happiness,” says the company’s CEO (India operations and private funds) Sanjay Dutt. They are to develop the start-up area of the capital in the 20 sq. km Seed Development Area of Amaravati, along the River Krishna waterfront. Spread over 684 hectares, the area will be developed in phases, over 15 to 20 years.
Anand Mahindra is already planning to develop an industrial city here. The state has allotted 996 acres so far to set up educational, health and other entities, at a cost of Rs 17,808 crore and will give more to new investors. It is ultimately to be a Rs 58,000 crore project in which the city will be fully functional by the end of the second phase in 2024 when most buildings, hotels, universities and the central business district will be operational. The third and final phase is scheduled to be completed by 2029.
“Today, nine countries and many international agencies are involved in the development of Amaravati. By 2018, we propose to spend Rs 25,000 crore on trunk infrastructure and other facilities with funds from the World Bank, HUDCO and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency. I am confident that by 2019 we will complete the first phase of developing Amaravati,” says Naidu. The man who made Hyderabad an IT capital is now generating the same confidence about Amaravati. In his own words, “this is the beginning of world-class things to come”.
GRAND DESIGNS Chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu reviews the plan for Amaravati
CAMPUS CALLING The upcoming SRM University in Amaravati