VISAKHAPATNAM : Kicking off a fresh controversy in utter violation of the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) norms, the Visakhapatnam Urban Development Authority (VUDA) has invited tenders for a Detailed Project Report on the proposed premier housing, eco-park and other infrastructure projects in Seethakonda Forest Block, very close to the shore.
The VUDA has invited the tenders from the consulting firms for providing consultancy services for preparation of DPRs for development of Yerrakonda Forest and Seethakonda Forest blocks. The proposal to develop the Seethakonda Forest Block, which comes under Eco Sensitive Zone, poses a threat to the wild life in Kambalakonda reserve forest and the existing Indira Gandhi Zoological Park.
The VUDA has invited the tenders for the both projects with Rc.NO.4/2015/A1/F1 dated March 25, 2015, and placed in its website Thursday. The tenders were invited for development of various projects including housing, theme parks, convention centres, etc., in Seethakonda Forest Block (adjacent to the back gate gate of zoo park), very close to the shore, in an extent of 224.194 acres and in Yerrakonda Forest Block, in an extent of 939.36 acres, near SR Puram (between Adavivaram-Sontyam Road).
Similarly, the VUDA has also called up tenders for DPRs in an extent of 939.86 acres in Yerrakonda Forest Block close to SR Puram located on Adavivaram-Sontyam Road. It has proposed International Residential Green Field Township in 250 acres, International Convention Centre in 50 acres, a five-star hotel in 30 acres, recreational zone in 50 acres, IT Hub in 100 acres, institutional area in 100 acres and, an open place and parks in an extent of 100 acres.
It has also mentioned city-level commercial spaces, art museum and galleries and social and physical infrastructure including roads in an extent of 240 acres in the notification.
“I’m very surprised about the VUDA’s tender invitation. Though it is only for preparation of the DPR, it is a gross violation of the CRZ norms and the Apex Court’s directions. Unless we stop this type of ecologically harmful proposals, Vizag will face a huge threat. Already, Vizag witnessed a major calamity in the form of Hudhud. The officials and ministers should protect the environment and the hills surrounding the city. VUDA’s proposal would prove very dangerous if the projects materialise. Meanwhile, our department did not yet give permission to the projects,” a senior forest department official said.
There is a huge process to de-notify forest land and divert it for non-forest purposes. In fact, the Andhra Pradesh government had decided to de-notify some of the forest lands in Tirupati, Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam. A GO was already issued to identify such lands.
A committee led by joint collector had been constituted to identify such forest lands to utilise for non-forest purpose. As part of it, the Seethakonda and Yerrakonda lands have been identified for exploitation in Visakhapatnam.
Meanwhile, former IAS officer EAS Sarma strongly objected to the VUDA’s proposals stating that they are in gross violation of the CRZ norms and Supreme Court’s directions. In fact, according to the VUDA’s Master Plan, no hill/hillock should be damaged at any cost. However, inviting the tenders for DPR in Yerrakonda and Seethakonda is against the VUDA’s Master Plan, he pointed out.
“After the state bifurcation, Andhra Pradesh has very less forest area left. I strongly objecting to both the proposals and have already written a letter to the government. According to the Supreme Court directions, if one acre of forest land is de-notified, afforestation must be taken up in an extent of two acres. So VUDA has to undertake compensatory afforestation in 2,500 acres for the proposals. Where is the land for that? VUDA must be aware of the SC directions in WRP 169/2012 that no borewell will be allowed below 500 m. How will the VUDA develop Seethakonda Forest Block? I will take up the issue to the notice of the higher authorities, and file a case against VUDA if needed,” Sarma said.