Myanmar's 20-Lane Road to Nowhere

Constructed at great expense over the past decade, Myanmar's planned capital city of Naypyidaw boasts an empty 20-lane stretch of road. The city's real purpose may be to discourage regime change.
May 3, 2016, 9am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Traffic isn't a problem in Naypyidaw.

Myanmar's own "road to nowhere" was likely constructed for very different reasons than outsized, underutilized infrastructure elsewhere. The country's planned capital city, Naypyidaw, was built from nothing under the regime of former military leader Than Shwe. "The reasons the government chose to relocate the capital from Rangoon (the previous capital) to a patch of previously uninhabited jungle 200 miles north remains [sic] equally unclear."

Some have theorized that Naypyidaw's location and layout are a means to prevent violent regime change. "Some reports suggest that the nervous president overseeing the construction of this new capital [...] insisted on the giant boulevard so that it could act as a runway for planes in case of riots." By design, the city lacks the wide public squares that often act as spatial catalysts for revolutions and popular movements. 

Naypyidaw looks impressive, but its wide thoroughfares are often completely empty of traffic. The place serves as an extreme example of how politics can dictate a city's shape.

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Published on Thursday, April 21, 2016 in Atlas Obscura
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