Relocating Capital Wishful Thinking for Now

Relocating Capital  Wishful Thinking for NowRelocating Capital  Wishful Thinking for Now

Relocating Iran’s capital which was first proposed in 1985 - on Tehran’s 200th founding anniversary - is wishful thinking in the absence of empirical investigations, says urban sociologist Zahra Talani.

The Iranian Majlis or parliament ratified a bill to relocate the political capital from Tehran in December 2013. However, no structural and empirical studies have been undertaken to evaluate the political, social, cultural, and economical prerequisites for a prospective new capital.

Most cities are burdened with environmental and social issues and moving the capital to a place already hassled with urban blight will not help resolve the problem, says Hossein Imani Jajarmi, urban sociology instructor at the Faculty of Social Sciences. Tehran suffers from centralization of population and core government organizations. “All social and urban experts agree on the critical state of Tehran, to the point of explosion soon,” Jajarmi maintains. “Nevertheless, a conscious decision calls for thorough data, empirical research, and comprehensive strategies,” to address the problem, he said, quoted by Khabaronline.


Stating that a visual perspective of Tehran over the next two decades is alarming, Jajarmi said “compulsory migration seems inevitable; unfortunately, some believe that a hasty relocation plan will solve the urgent issues of the city’s high pollution levels and population overload.”

The Guardian Council in accordance with the 2013 bill ordered an appraisal and evaluation of the entire gamut of requirements necessary for relocation. Secretary of Council of Architecture and Urban Development, Pirouz Hanachi, who is a member of the Council of 15, is evaluating the prospects of relocation in line with the GC directive.

The 15-member council comprising experts and four ministers under the president’s direction is assessing financial and population constraints. “One-fourth of the country’s population as well as 30% of its GDP is confined to 2% of the area,” Hanachi told Donya-e Eghtesad. In general, moving the capital to another city is a doubtful project, “due to serious concerns regarding incomplete resettlement and the subsequent problems that are likely to arise. Political-administrative relocation of capitals stopped in 1960 around the world with the exception of Kazakhstan,” Hanachi underlined.

 Planning Code

Moving the capital with its administrative body, calls for the creation of a “competitive pole” with living, working, and ecological attractions. Asaluyeh, a city in and the capital of Asaluyeh county, in the southern Bushehr Province, is an example of a rather successful ‘competitive pole’ where working opportunities attracted many from Tehran for temporary or permanent jobs even with their families.

Globally, and in countries such as the US and UK, a strategy or municipal “planning code” as it is commonly known, is used to tackle over-centralization. “Planning code seeks to achieve the desired ends of a plan,” Hanachi said. As an example: to avoid population density in Tehran, living costs should go up in the central  districts while they should decline in suburban areas with simultaneous improvement in quality of life, to encourage people to move to the suburbs and decongest city centers.

Moving the capital from Tehran is a long debated topic, first brought up in the 1970s. Hanachi said approximately $2.1-$2.42 billion (70 -80,000 billion rials) should be allocated to the plan. “Regardless of the prohibitive  costs, we need a concise map of the current problems in Tehran,” he said, adding that expansion of certain industries in Tehran such as Iran Khodro Diesel have aggravating effects, namely attracting workers to a city which already encompasses 25% of the total population of nearly 80 million.