Countries Building Brand-New Capital Cities
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These are all the new purpose-built capitals in the world right now (as of fall 2022).
Sejong City, South Korea
Nur-Sultan (formerly known as Astana), Kazakhstan
New Administrative Capital (NAC), Egypt
Ciudad De La Paz, Equatorial Guinea
Little Bay, Montserrat
Around the World With New Capitals
New Capitals: Part 1
If you’re from Europe or the Americas, your nation’s capital has probably been your nation’s capital for a long time, with lots of historical landmarks and statues of old people. But believe it or not, brand-new capitals are built all the time. It's actually happening a lot right now.
Many countries are making purpose-built capital cities from scratch, and they’ve got trash tubes, honey bee farms, and even a moat. Here are a few of the newest and coolest:
It's not a new thing to build a new city from scratch, but modern issues, like overcrowding and globalization, seem to have accelerated the trend.
South Korea built Sejong City in 2007 as its new administrative capital. It is more centrally located and definitely less congested than political capital Seoul. At the center is a massive 2 million square foot mega-complex that houses most of the government. The whole city has an automated trash collection system — just throw your garbage into the nearest receptacle, and it automatically gets sucked through tubes to the waste disposal plant. No garbage trucks.
Myanmar created their new capital Naypyidaw in 2005. Built in secret, it's possibly the strangest capital city on the planet. It’s almost five times the size of London with 10 times fewer people. There’s a 20-lane highway with barely a car, the largest zoo in southeast Asia, and a giant government complex that’s surrounded by a moat (yes, a moat).
The entire city is divided up into very specific zones: hotel zone, government zone, residential zone, and apparently, the rooftops of houses are color-coded, according to where people work. Most outsiders view the city as a deliberate plan to make it difficult for people to gather, ehem, protest.
There are lots more new capital future cities — think I need to make a part 2.
New Capitals: Part 2
As many of you pointed out, us humans do have a long history of building capitals from scratch. Washington, D.C., was paved from a swamp, Brasilia plopped in the jungle, and Canberra crafted from farms (that’s actually a good story: Melbourne and Sydney both wanted the capital, so like fair parents, they made a new one in between to share).
Malaysia built Putrajaya as a second capital in 2001 to divert from overcrowded Kuala Lumpur. This green city has sensors that monitor everything like traffic, crime, weather, and pollution at a central control center so officials can react quickly. There are communal gardens so citizens can grow their own food, a municipal honey bee farm, and so many birds that they’re marketing it as the urban birding capital of the world.
Next door, Indonesia’s capital Jakarta is also overcrowded, and it is sinking. So they’re planning Nusuntara, a $30-billion project that will rise from the rainforest on the island of Borneo. The location is very deliberate: it’s on one of the 1000s of the country’s islands which isn’t Java, the one island that usually gets all the attention (yes, they grow coffee). Indonesia aims to make Nusuntara a smart eco-city, betting that the entire city’s carbon footprint could be absorbed by the surrounding rainforest.
The small island nation of Palau in the South Pacific built a new capital in 2006. Called Ngerulmud, it has a large familiar-looking government complex, and, well, that’s about it. It’s the least populated national capital in the world, with a population of fewer than 300 people.
New Capitals: Part 3
Rounding up the last of the new capitals — let me know if I missed any?
Kazakhstan made a splash with their new capital Astana in 1998 (recently renamed Nursultan). Despite being the butt of jokes, Kazakhstan gets the last laugh. Since gaining independence in 1991, the largest landlocked country in the world has used its giant supply of resources to grow into the wealthiest nation in Central Asia. Known for its huge futuristic buildings, they built their capital as proof.
Three more countries have new capitals in the works:
Egypt is making NAC — short for the yet-to-be-named New Administrative Capital.
Equatorial Guinea is building Cuidad de la Paz.
Stop rewind, I got you: Equatorial Guinea, a tiny nation on the west coast of Africa, the only African country that speaks Spanish, the highest GDP per capita on the continent (a lot of oil) but one of the lowest in development (they don’t share it very well).
And last, the small Caribbean island of Montserrat (technically a British territory, but it needs love, so I’m including it). Its capital Plymouth was buried by a volcano in 1995.
Since then, the entire island has been sectioned off into a safe zone and an exclusion zone, and most of the population and visitors have left. They’re planning the brand-new Little Bay safely in the safe zone to bring people back.
This article was originally published on Map Nerd and is part of a Far & Wide partnership with Map Nerd , a digital media community that is all about discovering, exploring, and sharing unique places and interesting things on maps, with short videos and fun info. Subscribe to amapnerd.com, and you can explore with us!