Visakhapatnam: The skyline around Vizag city is changing dramatically, and not for the better. Over 75 per cent of the hills that surround the city are now residential colonies and, environmentalists say, that this is the reason behind the scanty rainfall.
Visakhapatnam is a unique city with hills surrounding it and of course the Bay of Bengal.
The rapid urbanisation is changing the face of the city, with migrants from the neighbouring districts occupying 20 hillocks in the city limits and constructing houses, some on just 60 sq. yd plots.
According to the government regulations, all hillocks belong to the revenue department and it is mandated to protect them.
However, politicians, using their influence, have found the hills to be a source of revenue and had levelled clearings and built sheds.
They sold these sheds to the people from low income groups.
They again use their influence to ensure government agencies like the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation provide amenities including streetlights, CC roads and steps to these houses, supply water. In return, the GVMC collects taxes also. The APEPDCL also gives power connections to these houses.
In fact, the previous TD government had given title deeds to the people who constructed houses in an extent of 100 sq yd or below.
Ask any revenue official and you are most likely to be told that they are helpless due to shortage of staff and political pressure.
This shortage of staff and political pressure does not stop the landslides and rolling down of boulders from the hillside, especially during monsoon.
The GVMC has identified several spots vulnerable to landslides at Gajuwaka, Marripalem, Madhavadhara, Kancharapalem, Hanumanthawaka Junction, Arilova and Ravindranagar some other areas.
“Yes, it is true that a large number of residential colonies have been developing on the hillocks. According to the Municipal Act, the civic body must collect taxes on structures. GVMC is providing all amenities to the hillock residential colonies. Since the residents there use corporation services, the GVMC collects taxes. Though these hillocks belong to the revenue department, it’s our collective responsibility to protect them,” said GVMC commissioner G. Srujana said.
Visakhapatnam RDO M. Venkateswara Rao said that collector V. Vinay Chand has issued strict instructions to protect the hillocks from further encroachments and not allow any more constructions.
“There is no task force team in the revenue department to protect government lands. The government may create an exclusive task force teams to protect its hillocks,” said Mr Rao....