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Gov’t to Probe Feasibility of Relocating Capital
Economy, Business And Markets

Gov’t to Probe Feasibility of Relocating Capital

After decades of toying with the idea of relocating Iran’s political and bureaucratic capital Tehran in view of its many problems, including high traffic congestion and population density, heavy air pollution and the risk of earthquakes, a proposal passed by President Hassan Rouhani’s administration to investigate the possibility and ways of moving the capital was approved by the parliament and the Guardians Council last month.
To implement the law, a council is to be set up consisting of high-ranking government officials to study the feasibility of relocating the capital and decentralizing Tehran within the next two years.
This is not the first time that such a feasibility study is being carried out about moving the capital, according to an article by Persian newspaper Donya-e-Eqtesad. The Urban Planning and Architecture Research Center—affiliated with the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development—had conducted a comprehensive research back in 2000, studying international experience in capital relocation.

  Five Objectives for Capital Relocation
Based on the research, countries that have moved their capital cities over the past century have generally pursued one or more of the five main objectives: Increasing the country’s role in the global system, access to water and energy sources and the central government’s security in case of natural disasters, achieving economic growth through a balanced development of all major cities, self-sufficiency of the capital in terms of resources and development of e-government.
Economic growth and development of urban areas were the major common objective among the countries that moved their capitals, according to the research, which points out that 70% of economic growth and regional development achieved by 12 countries was a result of capital relocation.

  Supporters and Critics
Tehran has expanded tremendously due to its huge population growth. A sharp contrast in job opportunities in Tehran compared to other parts of Iran has intensified the migration of provincials to the city. This has led to difficulties in providing urban services to the citizens and has created critical situations in terms of traffic, air pollution, etc.
To make matters worse, Tehran is also faced with a serious risk of earthquake as it is located on several faults. But while supporters of moving the capital believe the earthquake threat is sufficient to relocate the capital, there are those who still believe in the effectiveness of short and mid-term solutions to the city’s problems. Reducing the predicted population growth rate from 12.9 million to 10.5 million people in Tehran’s Comprehensive Development Plan and planning to prevent excessive construction to limit the inflow of population to the city are among policies pursued by the latter group.

  Not Effective in Reducing Population
One important finding of the research carried out in 2000 was that in the countries where the capital was either moved to another city or where a new city was built to relocate the governmental activities, the former capital continued to be a center for economic, tourism and cultural activities with little reduction in population density over the long run.
Ali-Mohammad Alikhanzadeh, the head of Urban Planning and Architecture Research Center during the years 1998-2000, concluded the research results by observing that: “Various reasons such as political, economic, social and even cultural factors have driven the countries to move their capitals. But in none of these experiences has capital relocation alone proven to be a solution for decentralization and reducing the level of activities in the capital.”
A major challenge in moving the capital is that the population is often disinclined to move to the new capital due to lack of attractive amenities and facilities.
“The global experience shows that the new capital should be placed in close vicinity of an existing metro city or on the outskirts of the former capital city. Yet, it would take many years for the public to show interest in choosing the new city as their place of residence,” points out the research.
The research conducted by the Urban Planning and Architecture Research Center had suggested that the government concentrates its efforts on reducing the gap between development in Tehran and other parts of the country and decentralization of production and services enterprises to encourage a more balanced distribution of population. It remains to be seen whether the newly formed council, which is scheduled to start feasibility studies in the next two months, will arrive at a similar conclusion or not.

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