INDIA - Building a World-Class City from Scratch

Arno Froese

On a wide stretch of land bisected by India’s Krishna River, bananas, sugarcane, cotton, guavas and commercial flowers once sprung from dark soil that people described as a farmer’s paradise.

The crops are nearly all gone now, the farmers having signed over their plots to the state government. Cows meander alongside freshly paved highways, motorized rickshaws haul construction materials instead of crops and giant concrete shells are rising from the earth as the sprawling city of Amaravati takes shape.

Staggeringly expensive and already behind schedule, the city represents India’s biggest attempt at casting off a reputation for urban chaos and pollution and creating a grand, ultra-modern city to match its global ambitions.

Nothing has matched the scale of Amaravati, which means “abode of the gods.”

Within two decades, Andhra Pradesh leader Chandrababu Naidu expects the city, which had just 13,000 people in 2011, to house more than 11 million.

Some critics call the dream a land grab that will benefit developers over ordinary citizens. Others say attempting to build a city of this size from scratch in India’s raucous democracy—with competing political power centers and a long record of mismanaging major infrastructure projects—is an epic folly.

To create something different, Naidu formed a joint venture with the government of Singapore. Singaporean experts drew up Amaravati’s master plan, and one of the island’s leading urban planning companies, Surbana Jurong, is leading construction on the first of three phases of the city.

“It’s a much more complex political context than ours, but at the end of the day the principles of sustainable development are the same,” said Khoo Teng Chye, executive director of the Center for Livable Cities, a Singaporean government agency involved in the effort.

One brief delay occurred when Indian officials pointed out that Singapore’s first blueprint for the city did not align with vastu shastra, an ancient Hindu system of architecture designed to achieve harmony with nature. The directions of roads and position of some buildings had to be reworked.

In a more significant setback, the World Bank, which had promised a $300-million loan for Amaravati’s construction, has deferred a decision until early next year on whether to launch a formal investigation into farmers’ claims of land grabbing and environmental harm.

-www.latimes.com, 18 December 2018

Arno's commentary

Some economic prognosticators see India developing into the world’s second largest economy after communist China, in the not too distant future.

The name Amaravati, translated “abode of the gods,” reminds one of the Biblical record of the attempt to build the Tower of Babel: “And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:3-4). How did God react to that? “So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth” (verses 8-9). That’s the original Babylon. Unger’s Bible Dictionary defines Babylon, “an ancient city-state in the plain of Shenar, derived from Acadian ‘ba-li-lu’ meaning ‘gate of god.”’

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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