TDP’s Ponguru Narayana and YSRC's Nellore Deputy Mayor Mohammad Khaleel Ahmed are contesting from the Nellore City Assembly constituency.
TDP’s Ponguru Narayana and YSRC's Nellore Deputy Mayor Mohammad Khaleel Ahmed are contesting from the Nellore City Assembly constituency. Photo | Express

Andhra Pradesh: Encroachments on canals, a sticking point for voters in Nellore city

Several issues such as the expansion of roads and the clearing of encroachments on irrigation canals among others have plagued the city.

NELLORE : The electoral contest in Nellore city holds significance given its historical association with the Congress and the recent shifts in political dynamics.

After being defeated by YSRC’s Anil Kumar Yadav by a margin of 1.25% votes, TDP’s Ponguru Narayana has been once again roped in to contest from the Nellore City Assembly constituency. On the other hand, the YSRC has decided to nominate Nellore Deputy Mayor Mohammad Khaleel Ahmed, a close aide to former minister and incumbent MLA Anil Kumar Yadav.

Up until the TDP was founded in 1983, Nellore constituency was considered a Congress stronghold. Notably, T Ramesh Reddy from the TDP secured victory in 1994, while Mungamuru Sridhara Krishna Reddy of the Praja Rajyam Party won in 2009.

The YSRC’s Anil Kumar has represented the segment for the past 10 years. His voteshare, however, dropped to 47.38% in 2019 from 53.24% in 2014. The voter turnout has witnessed a rise over the years, recording 53.28% in 2009, 57.48% in 2014 and 61% in 2019.

Political shifts are also likely to sway the outcome. While the entry of suspended YSRC MLA Anam Ramnarayana Reddy into TDP has given a boost to the yellow party in the city, former TDP leader and a member of Anam family, Vijaya Kumar Reddy, shifting his loyalties to the ruling party is expected to be advantageous to the YSRC in the rural area limits.

With industries, economic zones, thermal plants and many other manufacturing units coming up in and around the city, Nellore has been emerging as tier-2 city. However several issues such as expansion of roads and clearing of encroachments on irrigation canals among others has plagued the city.

Over the years, several vital irrigation canals, including Uyyalakalava, Jafar Saheb Canal, Sarvepalli Canal and others, are gradually disappearing. The reason being illegal constructions such as shopping complexes and hotels encroaching upon these once spacious canals, thereby drastically reducing their capacity to carry stormwater away from the city. Residents of Parameswari Nagar, Sivagiri Colony, Khuddus Nagar, Mansoor Nagar, and Maheswari Nagar face significant challenges during flash floods, as encroachments obstruct the natural flow of water.

The grave situation came to light in 2015 when the city witnessed severe flooding, prompting municipal authorities to seek expert solutions to mitigate future risks. Efforts to address the issue began in 2015, following the devastating flash floods.

However, progress of the works has been hindered by persistent encroachments and a lack of stringent enforcement against violators, some of whom have political affiliations. Officials recognise that without decisive action to clear encroachments, the city will remain vulnerable to the recurrence of flooding during the monsoon season.

“Unless the government takes strong decisions to clear the encroachments, the issue will remain unresolved. If political interests play a role, the situation that arose last year will repeat again during the ensuing monsoon,” said S Manikanta, a resident of the city.

The slow construction of the retaining wall across the River Penna passing through the city has become another pain point for the residents. The initiative came in response to past incidents where low-lying areas, including Venkateswara Puram, Janardhan Reddy Colony, Islampet, Bhagat Singh Colony, Ali Nagar, and Lalitha Nagar, were inundated due to severe flood. Residents endured anxious nights as flood levels soared, reaching up to 1.70 lakh cusecs. Following this, officials devised a strategy to erect a revetment wall, stretching from the Old Penna Bridge to the Penna Bridge on the national highway.

Work on the project commenced in July 2022, but residents have complained about the slow progress.

“Unfortunately, two women died when they accidentally fell into pits that were dug up for construction of the retaining wall last year. There is a need to speed up works for preventing soil erosion and damage due to human habitations in the low lying-areas,” K Rafi, a resident of the city, rued.

In this backdrop, former municipal administration minister Dr P Narayana is spearheading the TDP’s campaign with renewed vigour. He has focused extensively on Nellore city’s development. Despite his electoral setback in 2019, Narayana’s strategic moves and outreach to grassroots have positioned him as a formidable contender in the upcoming polls. He has been publicising the works taken up during his term as municipal administration minister.

“Many projects, including the underground drainage, sewage treatment plants, construction of CC roads, drains and plans were devised for developing Nellore city. After the YSRC formed government, the works were stalled and the entire progress of development came to a standstill. We will develop Nellore as a role model city in the country. People should take note of the YSRC government’s tactics that have created havoc in the segment,” the TDP leader said.

On the other hand, the YSRC’s candidate has vowed to take steps to continue the ongoing projects and ensure to initiate many other development works in the city.

Khaleel Ahmed expressed, “It is an honour that someone like me, a common man, has been chosen as an MLA candidate for the Nellore city segment by Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy. I firmly believe that Nellore city stands as a stronghold of the YSRC. The transformative schemes initiated by the Chief Minister have permeated nearly every household in the State. MLA Anil Kumar has also initiated many works for developing the constituency.”

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