Moscow To Double In Size: 20-Year Plan To Ease Overcrowding Approved Despite Mixed Reviews

07/14/2011 03:55 pm ET | Updated Sep 13, 2011

Moscow officials have approved an ambitious plan to more than double the Russian capital's size in an effort to alleviate the city's chronic overcrowding and constant traffic, but some critics are anticipating an environmental disaster.

As the Guardian is reporting, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev gave initial approval to a plan that would increase Moscow from its current 264,000 acres to 620,000 acres by taking in forestland and surrounding communities located to the city's south and southwest. In addition to Medvedev, the plan was also signed off on by Sergei Sobyanin, the city's mayor, and Boris Gromov, governor of the surrounding Moscow region.

Many of Moscow's government offices and large businesses wil be the first to move to the new area. In addition, new metro and railway stations, as well as an international financial center, are reportedly included in the plan. "We’re facing the task of creating a new institution, or, to be more exact, a new entity, which will be of great significance for us," said Medvedev, according to the Voice of Russia.

Although there was no official word on how long the project would take or how much it would cost, the Moscow Times quotes one city official as giving a "realistic estimate" of 20 years.

Among those to welcome the plan was Sobyanin. According to a 2010 census, Moscow's population increased from 10.4 million to 11.5 million even as the nation's population slightly decreased -- and, Sobyanin notes, "there's nothing to breathe in the center" of the city as it currently stands."Whatever was built around the perimeter in Moscow and the [surrounding] region, everything was squeezed into one center," the Wall Street Journal quotes him as saying.

But as Alexei Yaroshenko of Greenpeace Russia tells the Guardian, the project risks turning into an environmental fiasco. Though reports currently estimate the plan will displace 250,000 people, Yaroshenko believes it could be higher. "They don't care at all about the people," Yaroshenko said. "The officials decide and then start to build and what people think makes no difference to them."