VIJAYAWADA: Even though several ministers in N Chandrababu Naidu’s Cabinet are trying to make light of the objections raised by the panel with regard to setting up the new capital nearer to the Vijayawada-Guntur stretch, the committee in its 187-page report, submitted to the Union Home Ministry on Friday, clearly opposed State government’s proposal to locate the new capital on this stretch.
Interestingly, the panel even objected to the State government’s recent decision of shifting all government departments from Hyderabad to Vijayawada so as to make it “temporary capital” of AP.
Strengthening this, the committee in its report said, “The Committee is concerned that any ad hoc invitation to all other government departments to locate themselves within Guntur and Vijayawada will lead to unplanned and haphazard development and a fait accompli of a permanent capital as has happened in the case of Uttarakhand”.
The panel further felt that for the present efforts should be limited to locating offices of the CM, the Ministers and Secretaries in as compact manner as possible, in the area beyond the existing urban parts of Vijayawada, Guntur, Tenali and Mangalgiri (VGTM).
The committee also suggested that if the temporary set-up is made for relocating the government offices in and around VGTM, that should not become a “fait accompli” for making it a permanent capital.
Debunking the argument of the State government that VGTM region is ideal location for setting up the capital as it is centrally located in the State, the committee felt that these sort of concepts of ‘geographical connectivity’ and ‘centrality’ are need not be the only parameters for guiding the development.
Moreover, the committee strongly suggested the government to revisit the plan of locating the capital right on Vijayawada-Guntur Stretch.
The AP government and the Chief Minister from time to time have indicated their desire to have a “world class city”. In the contemporary state where the nature of governmental functions are both highly varied and innovative, there is no particular merit in seeking to locate all government offices in one single place.
The Committee does not consider a single large capital city as a feasible option available to AP as of now.
It is appropriate for the committee to share its concerns about locating government functions within the Vijayawada-Guntur-Tenali-Mangalagiri urban area, which is part of the generally known VGTM area. There has been much publicity in recent weeks that a capital city may come up between Guntur and Vijaywada. This is mainly due to the common perception that this area is geographically central and is already well connected.
This geographical connectivity, centrality and proximity are attractive concepts but need not be the only one for guiding development.
In other states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra or West Bengal this geographical centrality does not exist. Any attempt towards concentration of the Government offices within the urban area of Vijayawada-Guntur will have to consider other consequences such as the strain on infrastructure and possible unplanned expansion of urban areas.
Our Committee would like to make a distinction between the VGTM area as defined by the Town Planning Department and the urban/municipal areas of Vijayawada, Mangalgiri, Guntur and Tenali consisting of about 4000-5000 square km. The size of the VGTM area is 7,060 square kilometres and almost twice the size of the state of Goa.
In the overall development plan prepared for the Vijayawada, Guntur, Tenali, and Mangalagiri by the Development Authority known as VGTM, the total population of this area is 17.22 lakhs. The VGTM UDA’s plan proposes on outer ring road whose main purpose is to open up and provide access to agricultural lands. This particular ring road approach, which is very similar to the ring road approach taken in Hyderabad, will have serious economic consequences. Given the skyrocketing prices fuelled by speculation, these proposals will further intensify the same. Unlike Hyderabad where irrigated agricultural land was not an issue, it is very much a serious consideration as far as the VGTM area is concerned.
l Seismic micro-zonation study of the Vijayawada region conducted by the Geological Survey of India (GSI) reports that potential earthquakes could result from four neo-tectonic faults located within a range of 150 km from Vijayawada.
l Floods frequently affect coastal districts of Krishna, Guntur, East and West Godavari, which are located on the banks of Krishna and Godavari rivers. An estimated 20 lakh people are affected. Vijayawada, Guntur and Nellore cities are especially prone to flooding.