Moscow’s Solution for Overcrowding? Expand the Capital

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Moscow city. Bird's eye view

Despite the concerns raised by the critics of the plan, Russia is not left with many options other than expanding the largest city in Europe.

Russia’s population has declined by 1.2%, according to its 2010 census. However, the population in Moscow rose from 10.4 million to 11.5 million—more than a 10% increase.

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As a solution to the city’s overcrowding and notorious traffic jams, President Medvedev approved the plan to stretch Moscow’s southern and southwestern borders, as well as relocating the government offices and major businesses to the new territory. After complete remodeling, which will take 20 years, the size of the city will more than double, going from 264,000 acres to 620,000 acres.

Though the change is vital, there are environmental and human rights concerns voiced by residents and NGOs.

“They don’t care at all about the people,” Alexei Yaroshenko of Greenpeace Russia told the Guardian, referring to the central government. “The officials decide and then start to build and what people think makes no difference to them.”

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The urban extension will stamp on forestland and small towns, as well as displacing thousands of the locals. Critics say the forests, which are federal property, will be razed off first. The government estimates 250,000 people will have to relocate, but experts think there are more. Also, the exact borders aren’t defined yet, but where it settles may affect thousands more.

Nevertheless, even Greenpeace’s Yaroshenko acknowledges the dire need for a solution. Mere overpopulation isn’t the core of the problem, but imbalance in resource distribution is. “The country is emptying and Moscow is growing,” Yaroshenko said. “All resources are going to Moscow—first money and then people follow.”

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