HYDERABAD:On a day when the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered the State government to stop all ongoing works relating to construction of the new capital, Amaravati, till the State gets required environmental clearances for the same, Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu on Saturday made it clear that this would not come in the way of laying of foundation-stone for Amaravati, scheduled to take place on October 22.
Speaking to reporters, after presiding over the State Cabinet meeting, held at Vijayawada, Naidu tried to downplay the directive of the NGT to the state government, saying, “The tribunal has issued notice to us seeking our reply. We will respond appropriately. We will get all environmental clearances for the new capital.”
At the same time, AP Capital Development Region Authority (AP-CRDA) officials claimed that the state is in the process of securing all environmental clearances from the Centre to start construction works for the new capital. Once, the Centre gives clearances, the State government would submit the same details to the NGT very soon, they added.
According to sources, during the Cabinet meeting, chief minister Naidu, upon hearing the news about NGT’s objections for taking up constructions in the proposed sight, told his colleagues that the Centre would very soon give environmental clearances to the construction of Amaravati.
Earlier in the day, the NGT, whose headquarters is located in New Delhi, directed the State government not to take up any construction work in the earmarked place for the new capital, including levelling of the ground, until the State government gets environmental clearances from the Centre. It also sought the details of wetlands and other areas in the proposed new capital, which might be inundated by occurrence of floods to the Kondaveeti Vaagu, which flows through the region.
The bench also directed the state government to come up with clear plans to avoid flooding in the capital region by November 6 when the next hearing of the case will be taken up.
The Tribunal was dealing with a petition filed by Pandalaneni Srimannarayana, who belongs to Vijayawada. The petitioner’s objection is that the new capital is being constructed on fertile lands and moreover in a flood-prone area. The State government is trying to turn the banks of River Krishna into a concrete jungle, he argues.
While hearing the petition, the bench, comprising Justice U D Salvi and Justice Ranjan Chatterjee of the NGT, told the petitioner’s advocate that AP government had earlier assured the tribunal that it would not take up any constructions, until it gets all required clearances.
“I think AP government is not taking up any construction in the proposed place. What is your objection?” the bench questioned the petitioner’s lawyer.
The petitioner’s counsel Sanjay contended that the government was going ahead with the works and had already held groundbreaking ceremony at the sight. “Now it is making preparations for foundation stone laying ceremony to be held on October 22. Green agricultural fields are being destroyed at Uddandarayunipalem village where the ceremony is proposed to be held.”
When the bench had wanted to know whether the petitioner had any proof of the ongoing works at the sight, the petitioner’s advocate submitted some photos in support of his claim. Then, the bench asked the petitioner’s counsel,saying, “What is the proof that these photos were taken at the same spot?”.
It further ordered the petitioner’s advocate to submit affidavits furnishing the details of each photo and name of each village where the concerned photo was taken.
The bench asked the AP government counsel, A K Ganguly, whether wetlands and other areas which might face floods during monsoon had been identified in the new capital region. The State government replied that it was in the process of identifying them.
Then, the tribunal ordered that all works be halted at the sight, till all clearances are given. It also directed the Centre and AP governments to file their replies with regard to the total extent of wetland and other lands that could be flooded by Nov 5, the date of further hearing of the case.