Will he, won’t he? That is the question being asked about Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu delivering on his promise of building Amaravati, the state’s new capital, as a world-class city. The challenges are stiff no doubt. And there is little at the two-year-old capital yet in terms of physical, operational, and social infrastructure to inspire confidence that Naidu will prove his detractors wrong. The CM had gone against the recommendations of some experts to opt for Amaravati, which has a history going back 2,000 years when it was one of the capitals of the Satavahana dynasty.
Spread over 217 sq km, the mega project necessitated acquisition of 33,000 acres of land, a process the state government facilitated through land-pooling. Billed as the ‘people’s capital’, Amaravati lies on the southern bank of the Krishna, between Vijayawada and Guntur. Naidu is aiming to create a vibrant, modern, and inclusive capital that is functionally smart, environmentally sustainable, and technology driven even as it retains its local culture and historical roots. The state government envisions the capital generating 3.5 million jobs for 11 million people by 2035 and catering to a population of about 14 million by 2050.
Regarding the progress in work, Trivita Roy, Associate Director—Research & Real Estate Intelligence Service, JLL India, says, “development has moved at a slow pace, remaining almost at the land acquisition stage. Most of the funds were spent on land acquisition rather than building government institutions. It must be understood though that building a world class city entails immense real estate and infrastructure investment which cannot happen overnight. It will take at least half a decade for results to become visible.”
With the state government having moved many of its departments from Hyderabad to neighbouring Vijayawada and Amaravati, one of the priority projects is construction of the interim government complex. Spread over 900 acres it will accommodate nearly 20,000 employees, with construction being undertaken by Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and Shapoorji Pallonji & Co Ltd. The first phase of the development of government buildings is scheduled for completion in December 2018.
Striking a positive note, Dikshu C.Kukreja, MD and Principal Architect, CP Kukreja Associates, says, “the CM’s decision to move government functionaries from Hyderabad to Vijayawada has given a fillip to real estate activity”—CP Kukreja Associates is designing the 15-lakh sq ft interim government complex. “At present there is lack of infrastructure including power, water supply, road and other amenities. It is imperative that the government focuses on infrastructural development so that high real estate demand can be met from the supply side as well,” he adds.
Naidu had asked the Singapore government to join the project for seed capital development as a long-term partner. Accordingly, Ascendas- Singbridge and Sembcorp Development Ltd prepared the master plan for the capital. For the development of a Start-Up Area (SUA) of 6.84 sq km, this consortium has submitted a proposal as the Original Project Proponent (OPP) under the PPP model.
Taking the Swiss Challenge route, the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA), the nodal agency for Amaravati’s development, has called for tenders in response to the proposal. The successful bidder will be chosen as the Amaravati Development Partner, serving as the master developer in tandem with the Capital City Development and Management Company, a government undertaking.
As for the realty scenario, land prices which had soared by 30-50% in Vijayawada and Guntur around the time of the city’s foundation-laying ceremony in November last year, have since stagnated—the government has imposed a ban on registration of land as it distributes reconstituted plots to farmers who had pooled their land for the capital. As of now, it is only construction of government buildings that is visible at the capital. But people at villages like Tullur, Mandadam, Velagapudi, Malkapuram, Venkatapalem, Rayapudi, Undavalli, and Penumaka across the capital are hoping for an increase in the demand for land after the inauguration of the temporary secretariat complex at Velagapudi.
Experts say investors would be keenly pursuing developments in Amaravati given its immense potential.
Historically, most planned cities struggle to get started, with the pace picking up once change on the ground inspires confidence about its prospects. It is on that pattern of urban growth that Naidu & co would be banking as the ten-year deadline for Andhra severing ties from Hyderabad—the capital it shares with Telangana at present— draws nearer.