Vizag Features

January 2005
25th January, 2005
Mr. G. Srinivas Murthy

Content of the letter submitted by Mr. G. Srinivas Murthy, Co-convenor, INTACH (Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage) to the Secretary - Visakhapatnam Urban Development Authority (VUDA) for his consideration, regarding the proposed Old Jail Complex.

Following suggestions and observations are submitted:

The whole area of the Old Jail Complex is densely populated with very old and big trees. It also has a large green cover of bushes, shrubs and grass ground cover.


If observed from air or from a higher altitude (as I have done, from the top of the Simhachalam Hill), it is noticed that this part of the green cover is an extension of the large green covers that forms the lung space for this part of the city. This green lung space starts from the Railways station area to the old jail site.


This is the second largest green area within the city limits after the one in Andhra University region comprising of the university area and the HPCL residential colony extending upto AIR and shipyard house.

Old Jail Complex
A bird's eye view of dense green vegetation on the Old Central Jail land

Every effort should be made to protect this green belt and see that we do not develop any projects in and around these areas, which may have an adverse effect on this eco-sensitive zone and cause slow degradation to the green belt.


Considering the recent government order that the area in question may be developed into a entertainment cum recreational zone, it is advisable that we carefully examine the impact of such development on the green cover.

6. As suggested in the government order the following areas have to be provided for:
a. I-Max Theatre -- 5.00 Acres
b. Food Courts -- 2.00 Acres
c. Parking Area -- 3.00 Acres
d. Central Green Park  -- 13.24 Acres
e. Area for road widening -- 4.64 Acres

Effectively out of the total 27.88 Acres of original green area of the Old Jail, only 13.24 Acres will be available as green area as result of the proposed development, which will be less than 50% of the existing green area (approximately 47.5% only). Hence there is need to relook at the allocation of land for various components of the project.


It would have been a worthwhile if the main entrance gate of the old jail could have been retained. This could have helped build a monument and remain as a symbolic reference to the old jail that existed once.


Since the road widening of certain roads is already commissioned, it is too late to discuss the matter. However it may be very relevant to prepare a comprehensive development strategy before carrying out any further construction of demolition work in the said site.


It is important to note that there will be a women's college right opposite to the proposed I-Max theatre. This may have an adverse effect on the environment of the educational institute. With this reference, it is advisable that we have a second look at proposing such projects in this location.


With a functioning example of the Prasad I-Max Theatre in Hyderabad, it is highly recommended that a feasibility study may be carried out for economical and business viability of such projects. These types of projects incur huge investments and the revenue returns have to be very high to make it profitable business venture. This will require higher spending capacities of the people of the city.


As a professional project consultant involved in many high investment entertainment facility development, I feel that we should very cautiously promote this type of project and it may be too early to conclude that I-Max theatre proposal is best suited for this project.


After having considered all the above mentioned issues, should we still continue to plan for such development, I submit to the following suggestions for your kind consideration.


It is suggested that the project may be termed as 'Integrated Entertainment Complex' with the following components:

a. I-Max Theatre or a Multiplex Mall, Food Courts with landscaped out door seating areas, signage, parking areas, Information Centres and souvenir shops, Jogging tracks, walkways, open air theatre for small gathering and cultural programmes.
b. The option of exact area allocation within the stipulated 07 [seven] acres of land should be left to the successful bidder.
c. The extent of land to be made available should not be more than 7.0 acres and this could be divided as follows:
i. I-Max Theatre -- 3.0 Acres
ii. Food Courts -- 2.0 Acres
iii. Parking -- 2.0 Acres

This will help in increasing the area under green cover from the proposed 13.24 Acres to 16.24 Acres [approximately 58.25%]. An efficient planning in laying the roads and structuring the traffic movement in the region may help in reducing the area under roads also, thus further increase in the area under green cover.


Locating such buildings should be done in the periphery of the property adjoining the exiting roads and not in the middle of the green area.


The area shown in the schematic drawing for the purpose of parking, is not the best option for the following reasons.


This divides the land into two pieces with effectively less space left for green area.


The parking areas should be located on the periphery of the land so that minimum land is used for approach length for parking area.


Creation of parking area in the middle of the property will also mean cutting of many trees, which should be avoided at any cost.


Providing multi level parking either in basement areas or part of the floors of the proposed building may solve the problem rather than providing all the required parking on ground itself.


Enclosed is a sketch showing suggested zoning.

A view of the Vizag green belt from Simhachalam Hills
An image of the dense green belt in Visakhapatnam, taken from Simhachalam Hill top.

It is recommended that all the proposed components of the projects should be so located, designed and executed that there is minimum damage to the green cover and minimum trees are cut.


It is recommended that number of tree required to be cut for the development of the buildings may be set a criteria for the bidders. Less the numbers, higher the score and thus the preference.


It is suggested that demolition of all the buildings within the suggested green area, need not be done immediately, till a suitable master plan has been done and approved jointly by the concerned authority and citizen group.


It is highly recommended that the watch towers may be retained in their present condition and green areas and island be developed around them. These will become monuments as a testimony to the historic events of the past and theses structures can be very beautifully integrated into the development plan.


Similarly one of the many old buildings comprising of prison cells may be retained and a museum or such display and information centre may be created for the visitors to the central park.


Lastly the methodology to be adopted for identifying the suitable developer should incorporate an effective screening system so that only those with a proven track record in developing such high value projects are awarded the project.


Lastly a committee may be set up by involving prominent citizens, representative of professional bodies and senior government officials to facilitate easy and transparent project implementation.

This note was submitted to the Secretary-VUDA, along with copies to the District Collector and VC-VUDA; as a response to the ongoing developments at the old jail site.

The author is a leading architect and project consultant based at Visakhapatnam. His expertise is in designing and developing projects of large magnitude with multi-level complexities and issues. He regularly writes on many such issues and is concerned with protection and preservation of our rich Indian architectural and environmental heritage.

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Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,
I have read the article written by Mr. G. Srinivas Murthy. It was really good and worthy. I wish our officials who are in-charge of this project, give a serious thought to it. Also the veterans of Vizag should be encouraged to take initiatives towards protecting the green belt in Vizag.

The efforts of are very impressive. I am a daily visitor to this site.

Good Luck.
Praveen Kumar


19th January, 2005

Is the crime rate in Vizag rising?

There is an ambiguity pertaining to the crime rate in the city. Some sections of local media reported that the crime rate had been on the decline in the year 2004. However the comparative statement of crime report for last three years provided by the city police was quite contradictory to the reports appeared in media.

The number of IPC cases reported under Law & Order, Crime and Traffic put together were 3052 in the year 2003 and 3321 in the year 2004. This indicates that there was a steady rise in crime rate in the last two years. Surprisingly, there is a significant decrease in cases related to traffic.

Property Offences like dacoity, burglary, robbery, vehicle thefts and other such cases witnessed a significant rise. The number of cases reported were 775 in the year 2003, whereas 1031 in last year i.e. 2004. What is more alarming was the fall of conviction rate. In 2003 the conviction rate was 21 per cent and in 2004 it was mere 8 per cent. Even the property recovered was also far from satisfactory. In 2003, the percentage of recovery was 73 per cent and in 2004 it was 50 per cent.

The rise was a very insignificant rise in the case of Bodily Offences like murders, rapes, abduction, rioting, homicide etc. There was a slight decrease in the white-collar crimes recorded in the year 2004 compared to its preceding years. However, the report did not figure in the Log Sanchar Case, which created a sensation in the city.

The city police did a commendable job in 2004 by conducting general elections peacefully without any untoward incidents. The police were also successful in keeping law and order situation under control in the city and especially in Andhra University campus where the protests against the Vice-Chancellor by various students and employee organizations went on throughout the year.

Vizag is one of the most peaceful cities in the country. It is up to the city police to keep it that way.

7th January, 2005


A few weeks ago the Grouch made his way, in a car, up to the lighthouse on Dolphin's Nose and thence to the Yarada village and beach. It was a while since he had last ventured this way and he now wishes that he had not made the more recent trip. Why? Because while he had been prepared for the excrement-strewn unpleasantness of the beach, he also came across some even uglier and more disturbing (but not nearly as bio-degradable) surprises on the hill itself.

Apparently running short of space for its sailors' and officers' quarters, the Indian Navy has cleared large tracts of land on the hillside and the hilltop and begun construction of a number of the characteristically squat and ugly buildings that mark any government enterprise. However, it is not the lack of aesthetic appeal inherent to these structures that the Grouch finds most offensive. Rather, it is the fact that, to the best of the Grouch's knowledge, there has been absolutely no participation of the average citizen and taxpayer in this matter. Not a word in any newspaper or magazine, not a whisper from our city's administrators to warn us that what was probably the last pristine element (the ridge of hills to the south of the city) in Vizag's environs was going to be desecrated in this manner.

Ugly buildings erected by the Navy on Dolphins Nose Hill

In countries where the democratic tradition has deeper roots (mostly in North America and western Europe), any such project is subject to prior requests for comments and suggestions from all those likely to be affected and to laws requiring environmental impact studies and statements before approval is granted. Over here, it does not appear to be necessary for the public to even be told when such activities are proposed. Government venality and corruption obviously exist, to a greater or lesser degree, in most parts of the world. But in India, especially at the local and regional level, we seem to have elevated such lacunae to new heights by combining them with a blatant disregard for public opinion or even the appearance of probity.

The powers that be (elected or nominated, in principle, to serve the people but, in practice, blithely indifferent to the taxpayer's concerns) take decisions based on what appears to be pure whimsy. The Grouch's pet peeve: the intermittent enactment and enforcement of laws requiring the riders of two-wheelers to wear helmets. Who decides that I have to wear a helmet? On what basis and with what authority? And even if such laws are well-intentioned, why are they in force only for a limited period of time and then arbitrarily relaxed (only to be even more arbitrarily re-introduced)? And why are there always absurd exceptions? Unless it is believed that women have thicker skulls or lives that are worth less than those of men, why should they not be required to wear the same protective gear?

But, getting back to the Grouch's original topic, surely the Navy had enough land available closer to the city. Why despoil Vizag's natural charm (its only charm, probably)? And even if it was felt that Dolphin's Nose and its surroundings had to be claimed for the Navy's housing requirements, did anyone care to study how this would affect the area's ecology? This is the price of development, some will argue. The Grouch does not agree. Covering vast swathes of land with concrete is not development. Blighting the city's skyline is not progress. Destroying fragile natural features without good reason and regardless of cost is not going to endear us to the much-vaunted tourist or future generations.

If we encroach on the hills, the existing 'residents' will be forced onto the roads: A wounded deer hit by a vehicle in Vizag

Another thing: the Grouch was actually not displeased with the initial work done on Kailasagiri. The parks were surprisingly pleasant and well-maintained, the sculptures not intolerably offensive. Now, allowing better to be the enemy of good, more and more structures seeming to be sprouting up on the hilltop and what was a pleasant vantage point from which to view the city is turning into yet another of the egregiously overbuilt abominations we possess in such abundance. Even worse is the cable-car strung up from this location to the adjacent hill. The Grouch spends most of the year traveling abroad and considers himself privy to the mind of the average foreign tourist and what attracts him to a particular spot. But even without the benefit of such insight, it should be obvious to the rudest intelligence that it will take more than befouled beaches and pointless cable cars stretching from one hot and dusty hilltop to the next to attract, say, your average American tourist to Vizag.

At the risk of sounding cynical, the Grouch must confess that he feels that we have nothing to make it worth the while of the average American to come to Vizag (which is probably a very good thing). The Grouch is not alone in this opinion. The Lonely Planet guide to India (that bible of foreign travelers) has nearly 1100 pages of which Vizag merits a bare one page (and all of Andhra attracts a mere twenty pages). What we do have, but are fast losing, is a natural setting that is rather pretty (and, from certain perspectives and when the light is just right, even beautiful). It cannot be improved upon by foul accretions of concrete and steel. We should, instead, focus on preserving it for our own enjoyment. Let us also reclaim our voices as citizens and not be the dupes of vested interests who would have us confuse destructive and irrational projects undertaken for their own advantage, but at our expense, with development.