Saturday 24 October 2015

Amaravati project a benchmark for new cities: Modi

By Nirmala Ganapathy, India Bureau Chief In NewDelhi, The Straits Times, 23 Oct 2015

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Amaravati, the capital of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh being developed in collaboration with Singapore, a "benchmark" for new cities and a centre for economic growth.

His remarks came yesterday at a foundation-stone laying ceremony to launch the capital city. Thousands of farmers and residents joined dignitaries from Singapore, Japan and India at the festivities.

Actual construction of government buildings, officials said, is scheduled to start only next year.

Amaravati, named after an ancient Buddhist city, is coming up along the Krishna River in farmland in the Guntur-Vijayawada region. The state lost its current capital Hyderabad, an IT hub, to Telangana, which was carved out of Andhra Pradesh in June last year.

Singapore companies have created three masterplans for the new capital in six months. They include lots of green spaces, high-rise commercial and residential buildings and low-rise government offices.

Mr Modi yesterday noted the challenge facing the Andhra government in creating a brand-new city.

"Very few new capitals or towns have been built after Independence, but that inhibition must end. We must look towards urbanisation with sustainability, without looking at it as a problem, but as an opportunity," said Mr Modi, who made urban infrastructure a priority and launched a scheme in June to create 100 new cities.

"Amaravati will be a benchmark for the development of new cities (in India)," he said. The state acquired around 13,300ha for construction from 25,000 farmers.

Yesterday, prayers were performed and soil and water from India's holy places and rivers were scattered at the spot. Mr Modi brought water from the Yamuna River and soil from India's Parliament.

Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran, who represented Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday, said Singapore was "honoured and privileged to be able to play a part in Amaravati's evolving story".

"Much work now lies ahead for the government and people of Andhra to build world-class infrastructure, and implement economic and social policies to attract investors from India and overseas in order to realise the vision of a strong and sustainable economy and city in Amaravati," said Mr Iswaran.

Singapore's involvement was formalised after the Republic and Andhra Pradesh signed a memorandum of understanding in December last year for Surbana Jurong to prepare masterplans covering 16.9 sq km.

Building infrastructure in the capital city project could cost about one trillion rupees (S$21.4 billion).

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, who hopes to finish the first phase by 2018 before 2019 state polls, appealed for financial help from the federal government. "We need your cooperation," Mr Naidu told Mr Modi yesterday.

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