Moscow officials have approved an ambitious plan to ease Moscow’s chronic overcrowding and constant traffic by more than doubling the Russian capital's size. The city’s area is to increase from 264,000 to 620,000 acres, largely at the expense of the woodland and holiday towns. Critics worry the move could prove to be an environmental fiasco and leave thousands displaced.
The plan (available in Russian) was approved by , Russia's president, in a meeting with the city's mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, and Boris Gromov, governor of the surrounding Moscow region.
Initial plans would see a pizza slice-shaped wedge of land in the southwest between the Varshavskoye Shosse and Kievskoye Shosse incorporated into the city, giving it a lopsided shuttlecock look. The government buildings are to be moved to these new locations.
In addition, Moscow’s international finance hub should be established in the western Rublyovo-Arkhangelskoye district, a favorite place of the capital’s ultra-rich.
According to Russian officials the project of Moscow’s expansion should be completed in 20 years. However, the budget for the venture has yet to be announced. It remains unclear how the city authorities plan to finance such a mammoth development project.
“The country’s current economic situation is far from rosy, so it is unlikely that the government would fund such a big project,” Ivan Tchakarov, chief economist at Renaissance Capital told The Moscow News. “I envisage a high level of participation from the private sector.”
While the plan is expected to bring improvement to city’s poor infrastructure, experts warn that expanding Moscow will not necessarily solve other major problems, such as weak institutions and rampant corruption.
According to the RIA Novovsti, Moscow is currently one of the most densely populated cities in Europe, with 11.5 million residents or about 11,000 people per square kilometer (about 28,000 per square mile). The last major expansion of city’s boundaries was in 1961, when the Russian capital’s population was 6 million.