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NGT stays tourism project on Visakhapatnam’s Rushikonda Hill, forms new panel

VIJAYAWADA: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday ordered an interim stay on the construction works of the proposed tourism project on Rushikonda Hill abutting the beach in Visakhapatnam.

The NGT’s Principal Bench in New Delhi also constituted a joint committee to look into the environmental viability of the project and whether Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearances should be revisited.

The NGT’s order came even as an earlier committee it had appointed said there were no violations.The order was based on a petition by YSR Congress MP K Raghurama Krisham Raju, alleging that the construction work was being carried out in gross violation of environmental norms.

It also alleged that master plan notified by the Urban Development Department, too, was violated. The petitioner termed the area environmentally sensitive, and said the State should protect it as per its Constitutional mandate.

The Tribunal had earlier formed a four-member committee with the Central and State Pollution Control Boards, State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority and Vizag District Collector as its members to look into allegations.

The committee reported that the construction was for the tourism project for which Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance was granted.

“The project site falls under CRZ-II as per the mapping done by IRS, Anna University. The AP Tourism Development Corporation submitted a proposal to APCZMA for CRZ clearance and the APCZMA recommended ‘No Objection’ to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change for CRZ clearance and the same was issued for the development of the project in two stages,” he said.

Further, it said the APTDC had constructed Haritha Resorts and VIHAR in 2006 and as the block became old, the department decided to demolish the existing ones and replace them with a new resort. The committee provided a clean-chit to the APTDC project.

The NGT said, “Though the report found the area in CRZ-II as per mapping done by Anna University, it needs to be verified whether as per CZMP, the category of the site is in CRZ-II. Further, we find it necessary to ascertain from an independent committee whether such a project is viable considering the eco-sensitiveness of the Hill, which may be adversely affected by such a project.”

The NGT constituted a joint committee of National Coastal Zone Management Authority (NCZMA), AP Coastal Zone Management Authority (APCZMA), National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM), with APCZMA being the nodal agency for coordination and compliance.

“The committee may look into the permissible use as per approved CZMP and environmental viability of the project and whether CRZ clearance needs to be revisited,” the NGT said, and asked the panel to submit its report in a month.

“No further construction shall be undertaken till the next date of hearing,” the NGT said, while directing the APTDC and MoEF&CC to file their counter. The matter has been listed for July 11.