Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar`s expansive, surreal capital

Constructed less than seven years ago in literally the middle of nowhere, Myanmar`s new capital boasts of extra-wide roads for the sparse traffic.

Last Updated: May 28, 2012, 10:02 AM IST

Nay Pyi Taw: Constructed less than seven years ago in literally the middle of nowhere, Myanmar`s new capital - where Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived on Sunday on a three-day visit - boasts of extra-wide roads for the sparse traffic, a scattering of shiny new government buildings and round-the-clock electricity in a country that is power-starved.

The literal translation of Nay Pyi Taw is "abode of the kings", a city certainly fit for the powerful military rulers who have ruled the Southeast Asian country for over 50 years of its 64 years as an independent nation. Myanmar became independent from British rule in 1948.

The construction work on the new city, in Mandalay province, began in 2002 and the marching orders came to the civil servants in November 2005 to leave Yangon (formerly Rangoon) and move to the city that was located over 300 km away.

According to one account, the capital covers a sprawling 4,800 sq km and it is spread out, making walking about a problem due to the distances involved. Another account says the capital is spread over 7,054 square km and has a population of 925,000.

At the heart of this gigantic city lies the massive government complex that houses the legislature and the 100-room presidential palace where Thein Sein, a former general who leads a reform-oriented regime, now lives.

The city`s planners believed in keeping things simple - so you have colour-coded apartment blocks that are based on residents` occupation: green ones are for the agriculture and irrigation ministry officials and blue buildings are for those working in the health ministry.

The roads are wide and traffic is sparse - something that motorists from Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore can only dream of. Imagine zipping down the road without getting caught in nightmarish traffic snarls: it may not be possible in India but is possible in the Myanmarese capital where one expressway is a staggering 20-lanes wide, a visiting IANS correspondent discovered.

Nay Pyi Taw is not the only urban conglomeration in the region. As many as five new towns - Oathara Thiri, Dekkina Thiri, Poppha Thiri, Zapu Thiri, and Zeyar Thiri - in the capital region are being developed in addition to the existing three - Pyinmana, Lewe and Tatkon.

The new capital came up in a sparsely populated area near a place said to be of historic significance as hundreds of years ago it was the capital of the then ruling dynasty. Located nearly in the centre of the country, it is close to the Bago Yoma mountain range and to the Shan state plateau in the east.

The new, immaculately planned city was carved out from the scrubland and is still taking shape.
Manmohan Singh`s visit to its eastern neighbour, with which it shares an over 1,600 km border, comes 25 years after the last Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, came here in 1987.

IANS