Editor's Note: Amaravati — Andhra Pradesh's new capital will be built over 33,000 acres of fertile land along the Krishna river. Firstpost travelled to the interiors of the region allocated for the capital to map the extent of social, environmental and economic damage dealt by the Andhra Pradesh government in its bid to build a 'world-class city'. The series will also feature 360 degree footage of the land in question, with accompanying audio commentary.
The sixth part of the series discusses the possibility of building an agriculture-based capital city for Andhra Pradesh
May 15, 2017: After the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, was passed, the current version of the state came into being on 1 March, 2014. On 28 March, 2014, as per the Section 6 of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, an expert committee under the leadership of the late KC Sivaramakrishnan, IAS and senior bureaucrat, who was also the Chairman of the Centre for Policy Research, was appointed by the central government to help select a capital region for the new state. He and his team toured 13 districts in AP and submitted an exhaustive report. They proposed multiple options for the new capital, advising minimum dislocation of existing agricultural systems and resettlement of people and their livelihoods. They also suggested performing an assessment of vulnerability from natural disasters, such as floods and earthquakes.
Paying no attention to the recommendations of the expert committee, the Andhra Pradesh government passed the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Act, 2014, and selected the Vijayawada-Guntur-Tenali-Mangaleri (VGTM) area as the capital region. Later in April 2015, two former judges of the AP High court, Justices A Gopala Rao and P Lakshmana Reddy, along with journalist ABK Prasad and advocate C Sadasiva Reddy, filed a PIL asking the AP High Court to declare the CRDA Act as unconstitutional and ultra vires of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014. They maintained that as per the Section 6 of the AP Reorganisation Act, the responsibility of identifying the AP capital lies with the Centre. The successor state of AP was not given the choice to identify its new capital area.
The petitioners also pointed out that the Andhra Pradesh government did not attempt to find an alternative location for the capital area instead of the green-fields and flood plains of the river Krishna, which is also a clause in the social impact assessment study. The case is still sub judice in the Andhra Pradesh High Court.
Meanwhile, the temporary secretariat has been built in Velagapudi, a village in the core capital area. A frenzy of construction has come up in the neighbouring regions. Related activities have started damaging the soil of the land. While the National Green Tribunal petitioner, Srimannarayana Pandalaneni is completely against any construction activities in the floodplains and favours, removing the capital away from this region, a majority of the activists and landowners, however, are comparatively less harsh.
For example, Anumolu Gandhi, who owns large parcels of land in these villages, seems fine with the capital coming up in the identified region. His conditions are – the construction activities and the capital region should be pushed away from the flood plains by 5-6 kms, it should be devoid of any Singaporean connection, and conceptualised as an agro-based one. “Building an agro based capital is possible. Then there is no need for those 2 lakh acres of land. Neither on this side of the river nor on that side of the river. Now, the lands are already destroyed, public minds have been destroyed. Romi Khosla’s concept design is suitable. It needs slight changes to adapt to the region, but it helps development. Destroying the entire land is not correct. Chandrababu Naidu will remain in history for destroying this land and this state,” he says with anguish.
Gandhi refers to a concept plan developed by Romi Khosla, celebrated architect, who has executed extensive Urban Planning and revitalisation projects in the past and who is principal consultant to UNDP, UNOPS, UNESCO and WTO, with inputs from professor Vikram Soni, conservationist and Emeritus professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi.
Khosla offers a concept design for a chessboard style natural city with alternating areas of concrete and green farmlands. It talks about a natural capital, a self-sustaining city, which may be built despite maintaining the flood plains. The square city of a total of 225 square kilometre area would have alternating square land tiles of 2 kilometre length each of urban and rural development, concretisation and greenery. In such an integrated setting, the experts calculate, green vegetable production will yield about 40 tonnes per hectare; the total area will also support cattle, at a rate of 20 cows per hectare, in terms of fodder. Other occupations like poultry, bee keeping, animal husbandry and other self employment opportunities can be practiced in the region. This design will lower ambient temperatures, help conserve energy, provide renewable and alternate sources of energy, and lead to a truly original and unique, self sustaining city, observes Dr Vikram Soni and Romi Khosla.