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- Wondering about the present situation in Vizag.CommentQuote0Flag
- Any new developements in Vizag after T-Stir in Andhra Pradesh
I heard many of my colleagues are speaking about this cityCommentQuote1Flag
- Price edge drives realty boom on Vizag outskirts
Price edge drives realty boom on Vizag outskirts - The Times of IndiaCommentQuote0Flag
- Concrete jungle eating into Visakhapatnam's green heritage
VISAKHAPATNAM: On the face of it, Vizag is one of the greenest cities in the country, blessed as it is with an enviable 44% of estimated green cover. All thanks to its nearly 60,000 acres of green belt, which includes the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant campus, spread across the 550 square km (1.36 lakh acres) Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) limits.
But dig a little deeper and one finds that in reality the city's green heritage is under grave threat. Experts warn that not only have several old trees, some as old as 150-odd years that adorned the Old Central Jail and old garden bungalows in Waltair, been chopped down to make way for modern highrises, many indigenous plant species are being replaced by foreign varieties. In the rural areas, many of the endemic and common species are fast losing their terrain due to the prevalent tribal practice of shifting cultivation.
The result: some of the endemic species like Istema Venkateswaruli have become extinct and many others are on the verge of extinction. While the endemic species are those found only in a particular region, common species, though found in reasonable or large numbers in one particular place, are not exactly specific to that region.
"There are 10 to 15 endemic species while there are around 1100 common Indian species. Of these, close to 30-40 species, mainly endemic ones, are now on the verge of extinction. Many of the species included in the endangered species are endemic to the higher climes of the district (over 300 meters). The only species endemic to Vizag -- Istema Venkateswaruli -- was last sighted in the Hanumanthavaka hill range the early 1970's," said Dr M Tarakeswara Naidu of the Department of Botany at Andhra University.
According to him, some of the common trees such as Terminalia Chembula, also known as Karaka Chettu in Telugu, that has anti-cancer properties, was once extremely popular in gardens and plantations but is now giving way to quick growing species such as Acacia mainly due to the green belt developers' fetish for quick growing species.
Experts pointed out that despite plenty of data being available very little has been done to conserve the endemic and common species of Vizag, which is why it has become all the more important to build a gene pool bank for plants to ensure that both the endemic and common species of Vizag district can be preserved in large numbers.
"The need to preserve the gene pool of common and endemic species of the region was first raised by Professors Bhairava Murthy and Professor J Venkateswarulu of AU's botany department way back in the 1960s. The duo published their work titled Flora of Visakhapatnam in 1972, comprising research conducted over two decades. However, despite other books following this pioneering piece of work, not much has been done towards preserving the 30-odd endemic species or even for that matter some of the common trees like even neem or the blue berry tree as many are being chopped down for the durability of the wood," said Professor E Uday Bhaskar Reddy of the Department of Environmental Studies at AU.
Already concerned over the alarming rate at which local varieties are being replaced by ornamental foreign varieties, members of the scientific and academic community of Andhra University along with a few concerned members of civic society are now working towards this end.
Recently, Mother Earth Environment Consciousness Society (MECONS) launched a signature campaign to save a 125 year old Banyan in the Waltair Railway station campus in addition to other old trees. "Our focus is on saving old trees and preserving the gene pool of the endemic and common species by sensitising people," said Ravi Kanth Reddy of MECONS Vizag chapter.
According to experts, all is not lost as some of the endangered species such as Istema Venkateswaruli and Phyllanthus Narayanaswami can still be regenerated in Vizag if they are sighted again. "Species such as Cyathea, a true wonder fern which has two-meter-long leaves that is found in the higher climes of Paderu and GK Veedhi but is vanishing due to Ganja cultivation, must be provided a home to grow in the region, where a number of campuses of state-run companies abound," said Prof Bhaskar Reddy.
Experts called for policies to protect endemic and common species that are fast being replaced by foreign palms and decorative trees to ensure bio-diversity is maintained. "As there is no such policy, we must invite corporates, government institutions, willing individuals and NGOs to develop a gene pool of species common to the area, thereby maintaining the local ecology," said Prof Bhaskar Reddy, pointing out that the reduction in Palmyra trees in the city has led to a significant reduction in the number of birds such as woodpeckers.
Concrete jungle eating into Visakhapatnam's green heritage - The Times of IndiaCommentQuote0Flag
- Civic body in soup over housing project for slum dwellers
VISAKHAPATNAM: The Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) has flouted the norms of the Rajiv Aawas Yojana in preparing detailed project reports (DPR) and identifying beneficiaries, alleged many residents of the 13 slums in the city that the GVMC officials visited, including Suryateja Nagar.
The residents claimed that the officials concerned entered some benami names as beneficiaries of the centrally sponsored housing project, which aims at providing a house worth Rs 5 lakh to families living in slums.
Alluri Sitarama Raju Slum Dwellers Association president A Ramulu said that nearly 220 names out of total 278 dwellers of their slum have not been included in the report of beneficiaries being prepared by GVMC officials concerned. "We came to know about the names being missing when they read them out at a recent meeting," Ramulu said.
Muthyamamba Colony Residents Welfare Association president P Nagaiah echoed Ramulu. He said that 236 people are staying with their families in the Muthyamamba colony slum. "We have found that nearly 130 names are missing from the beneficiaries' list," he said.
The residents of Suryateja Nagar slum, whose DPR has been prepared and sent for the government's approval, said that GVMC started work on the project in 2011 but there has been no progress till date. "No GVMC official has approached us in the past one year to talk about the project or any related work," Suryateja Nagar Slum Dwellers Association secretary D Nagaraju said.
GVMC has completely violated the norms of the project while identifying beneficiaries, alleged Pragada Srinivasu, secretary of the Association Regional Tribal Development (urban wing), an NGO that works towards safeguarding the welfare of the urban poor.
The civic body is meant to conduct public hearings and ensure the participation of community members, politicians and even NGOs while identifying the beneficiaries, according to the guidelines of the project. However, it did not do so, alleged Srinivasu, adding that nearly 40% of the names of beneficiaries are fake.
"The GVMC is also supposed to conduct a socio-economic survey in the slums and examine the living standards before identifying beneficiaries. This was also not done by the GVMC in all the 13 slums that they have covered so far to prepare the DPR for constructing houses under the project," Srinivasu said.
GVMC Urban Community Development project director M N A Patrudu denied all the allegations and said that they have so far prepared the DPR of only one slum, Suryateja Nagar, and sent its DPR to the government for approval.
"We have identified a total of 242 beneficiaries in Suryateja Nagar slum to build G+3 houses at an estimated cost of Rs 12 crore. In principle, the government has approved the DPR of the slum, but is yet to give financial clearance," Patrudu told TOI.
He maintained that they are preparing the DPRs of the 12 other slums and it would be completed by the end of this month. "The GVMC has followed all rules and regulations of the project while identifying the beneficiaries or undertaking any other work relating to the housing project," Patrudu maintained.
Civic body in soup over housing project for slum dwellers - The Times of IndiaCommentQuote0Flag
- GVMC plans to get tough on vacant land tax defaulters
VISAKHAPATNAM: Vacant land tax (VLT) defaults are increasingly becoming a cause of concern for the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC), which could mop up only 58.8% of the total tax of Rs 17 crore from its 13,000 authorized vacant site owners in 2012-13 financial year.
GVMC collects 0.2% land or site value declared by an authorized agency such as the department of registrations as VLT. However, it has been unable to collect a large portion of the dues, which have mounted to Rs 35 crore in the last five years.
Successive commissioners, including present civic chief M V Satyanarayana, have failed to collect the dues and VLTs every year, which is supposed to be paid to GVMC by the owners annually.
The Port City has as many as 63,000 vacant land sites in the area spread across 534 sq km falling under 72 wards and 32 peripheral villages, according to Geographical Information System (GIS) data. If the owners of all vacant sites pay tax, GVMC can get VLT of Rs 66 crore every year.
However, Satyanarayana said that as on Saturday, June 1, 2013, the civic body possessed data, such as profile and addresses of the owners of only about 13,000 vacant land sites.
"GVMC's target for the year is Rs 24 crore, including Rs 7 crore dues of the previous year. We have been making all possible efforts to gather information of all vacant sites and reach the target of about Rs 66 crore from 63,000 assessments," the civic chief told TOI.
The corporation has decided to adopt a new strategy to tackle VLT defaulters, according to GVMC's additional deputy commissioner (revenue) R Somannarayana. GVMC will give wide publicity about VLTs and legal problems to its defaulters and also appeal to them to clear VLT dues before July 31 this year, the officials said.
After July 31, an outsourcing agency will collect all information, including documents, of the defaulters and submit it to GVMC for levying and collection of VLT. Besides, GVMC revenue staff will collect information from the sub-registrar office for valuing the tax as well as for the latest mutation and for sending notices to the parties or owners of VLTs.
"The service charges for collection of information and documents to private agency shall be borne by the vacant land or owners only," Somannarayana said. Besides, physical verification from the layout owners associations and neighbours will also be done along with the data collection, the official said.
GVMC collects 0.2% land or site value declared by an authorized agency such as the department of registrations as VLT. However, it has been unable to collect a large portion of the dues, which have mounted to Rs 35 crore in the last five years.
GVMC plans to get tough on vacant land tax defaulters - The Times of IndiaCommentQuote0Flag
- BRTS at a crossroads
VISAKHAPATNAM: Inadequate parking space is plaguing the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) in Visakhapatnam, which is almost complete on the Pendurthy corridor and the Simhachalam corridor.
The project, which started in December 2008, should be completed by 2014 April, according to the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corportaion (GVMC). The Visakha Urban Transport Company Ltd was formed with the collector as chairman to manage the BRTS corridor.
However, with trial runs being conducted, problems such as traffic regulation and parking space have not been addressed till date, disclosed a source in GVMC.
The 40-km BRTS corridor is a twin corridor network on which more than Rs 315 crore has been spent so far, with the Union government bearing 50% of the cost, the state government bearing 30% and GVMC 20%. The total cost, including that of the flyover, is said to be a whopping Rs 420 crore. The GVMC has acquired more than 1,300 properties in the last five years to ensure the completion of the project that is aimed to solve congestion problems on the main transit routes in the GVMC limits.
However, EAS Sarma of the Forum for Better Visakha observed that the BRTS stretch from the RTC Complex via Maddilapalem to Hanumanthavaka Junction would lead to mayhem on the roads. "When planning for something like the BRTS, one should have adequate parking space. The only parking lot available is the one at Maddilapalem. As such, the non-motor vehicle portion of the roads and the footpaths would definitely be taken over by the public as parking space," said Sarma.
The authorities admit that all is not well with the project. The major problem is the lack of parking space on the BRTS stretch especially at Pendurthy and the RTC Complex-Maddilapalem stretch. People fear that the 8-metre footpaths would also be taken over by mall owners and other traders, who would not shy away from using them as parking lots.
A senior GVMC official admitted that they faced a problem in enforcing parking rules and keeping the footpaths clear from hawkers.
More importantly, the number of people taking to driving in the wrong direction could also increase with not more than 20 policemen and home guards manning the 40-km stretch.
Another issue plaguing the project is that of compensation. Many private property owners still oppose the idea of Transferrable Development Rights (TDRs) and demand to be compensated in terms of land.
The GVMC officials contend that there is not enough land for all, while private parties feel betrayed as they stand to lose valuable real-estate. "I do not understand why they are handing over these TDRs, which do not have market value," observed K Sridhar (name changed) a resident of the Maddilapalem stretch, who took the compensation paid by the GVMC under duress.
There are also objections to the idea of providing intersections at every 400 metres. B M Sastry, a civil engineer said,"People will look to jump lanes and drive in the opposite direction as both the Pendurthy and the Maddilapalem stretches are jam packed and the stretches are busy thoroughfares," said Sastry. GVMC officials countered that 10% of the public would anyway flout rules. Police admit that people jumping lanes, especially on the BRTS corridor, could pose a huge problem but pointed out that people were actually breaking down barricades, especially on the Maddilapalem stretch.
"People don't just jump lanes and cut corners. Some of them are also stealing grills and barricades on the Maddilapalem stretch. To curb this, the police commissioner has taken up the initiative of training students and using them as traffic guides. This, we, hope would help control the menace at least partly," observed V Suresh Babu, Addl CP, Traffic.
BRTS at a crossroads - The Times of IndiaCommentQuote0Flag
- Cement prices jump by 46% in 20 days
VISAKHAPATNAM: The construction industry has been badly hit with cement prices shooting up by Rs 100 per 50 kg bag from Rs 215 to Rs 315, representing a jump of 46% in 20 days.
The spike in prices will also hit home buyers and cement dealers in city, where around 1.5 lakh tonnes of cement is needed for construction activity every month, according to Parasurama Raju of the Waltair Steel and Cement Dealers Society.
Confederation of Real Estate Developers' Association of India (CREDAI) Vizag chapter chairman B Raja Srinivas said that the hike will result in cost escalation to builders. Normally around 20 kg of cement is needed per sq ft when it comes to apartments, while for construction of individual houses, the requirement could be as much as 40 kg per sq ft. This would mean that building a 1,000 sq ft individual house would cost as much as Rs 80,000.
Srinivas said that the hike in cement prices was partly because of an increase in power charges but largely as cement manufacturers chose to hike prices and not because of demand and supply dynamics. "This steep increase is not because of any change in demand and supply factor. It's more because of raising of prices by cement manufacturers," he said.
"The cement manufacturers are creating an artificial demand. Otherwise, how can you explain that on May 15 the rate was Rs 215 and by June 1 it had jumped to Rs 315 (per 50 kg bag)?" asked Raju.
"It's really tough on us. We are sandwiched between the cement manufacturers and construction firms because of the hike in rates," he said. Raju pointed out that the average breakeven price for cement manufacturers is Rs 230 to Rs 240 and the existing rates are too high.
Another trader, on the condition of anonymity, said that stocks have also been delayed for the last 4-5 days, putting further pressure on the trading community. "The last stock was supposed to reach us on Monday, but it still hasn't come to us," he said.
The rise in cement prices has left individuals in a spot of bother. R Srinivasa Rao, who is building a two-storeyed house with a total area of more than 2,000 sq ft in Paradesipalem, initially estimated that he would need to spend Rs 28 lakh to Rs 30 lakh. However, now he thinks that he will have to pay at least another Rs 1.5 lakh for completing the house.
The steep increase in prices is not because of any change in demand and supply.
Cement prices jump by 46% in 20 days - The Times of IndiaCommentQuote0Flag
- Realty company dupes investors of Rs 25 crore
VISAKHAPATNAM: Even as the protests over the SIMS multi-crore chit fund scam are yet to die down, another one has hit the city, with the Sri Chakra Gold Firm and Villas Ltd allegedly defrauding about 50,000 investors of Rs 25 crore.
The fraud came to light on Monday when a bank that had allegedly given Rs 2.5 crore as loan to the company management to set up Sri Chakra Mall sealed the property as the company failed to pay its dues.
The company was set up in 2010 by N Narendra (CMD) and his wife Aruna Devi (MD) at Chilakaluripeta in Guntur district. Aruna Devi's brothers Suresh and Anil Kumar were made general manager and executive director of the company and Anil Kumar's wife Bhargavi held the post of finance director. One Giri Babu and SV Krishna Rao, an advocate of Visakhapatnam, are its directors.
The company management allegedly lured people into investing about Rs 25 crore by claiming that they were relatives of Tamil Nadu governor and former Andhra Pradesh chief minister K Rosaiah, said sources. They promised high returns on many daily investment schemes. The company also claimed that it had 100 acres at Gajapatinagaram and another 5,000 sq yards site at Parvathipuram, apart from various assets at various places. More than 50,000 people, from AP, Odisha and Karnataka invested money in the company in the hope of reaping high returns.
The company headquartered at Vizag has 18 branches in Avanigedda, Gudiwada, Nuziveedu, Tiruvuru in Krishna, Sattupalli, Singaraya Konda of Guntur, Kottagudem, Khammam, Manchiryala in Adilabad, and Vikarabad in Ranga Reddy. It has nine other collection points. The Gudiwada branch alone had collected Rs 60 lakh in one year, an agent Basaveswara Rao told TOI. Senior agents in Tiruvuru - Narasinga Rao and B Srinivasa Rao — had allegedly collected Rs 3 crore, the sources said.
Around 60 agents who came to the Vizag office on Monday to collect the amount on maturity of their deposits were dismayed to see the sealed office. "We were shocked to see that the company head office at Turner Chowltry, very close to the city police commissioner's office, was sealed by the Central Bank officials," Basaveswara Rao said.
The victims also approached commissioner of police B Shivadhar Reddy and lodged a complaint at Two Town police station in the city.
The phones of Narendra, Aruna Devi and other directors were switched off.
Realty company dupes investors of Rs 25 crore - The Times of IndiaCommentQuote0Flag
- 40% JNNURM houses vacant, 20% sold or rented
VISAKHAPATNAM: Over two years after the government handed over the keys of nearly 8,000 low-cost houses developed under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) housing scheme to the beneficiaries, a staggering 40% of the houses are still lying unoccupied.
This, even as nearly 20% of the houses have been put on rent or sold off by the beneficiaries, while the remaining 40% are occupied by persons that the government officials are yet to identify. These are the startling findings of a recent sample survey carried out by the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) department of urban community development (UCD) on the 7,964 houses handed over to beneficiaries.
The GVMC is planning to take up a comprehensive survey soon to identify the occupants of the remaining 40% houses to find out if they are genuine or bogus beneficiaries. "The sample survey revealed that most of the houses were not occupied by the people who were handed over the keys. We have decided to conduct a comprehensive survey by visiting the houses during morning hours to check the occupants and if they are genuine beneficiaries. We will also serve legal notices to the bogus occupants on the spot itself. However, all this will take two to three months," UCD project director, MNA Patrudu, told TOI.
According to GVMC officials, the government had sanctioned 15,320 houses under JNNURM to GVMC, since 2009. However, GVMC decided to construct only 14, 267 houses and said it would not build the remaining 1053 houses primarily due to land problems.
So far, GVMC has been able to complete the construction of only 7,964 houses in 43 layouts and has handed over the keys to the beneficiaries since mid 2011. Another 4,757 houses are under various stages of construction.
The cost of each housing unit ranges from Rs 1.65 lakh to Rs 1.81 lakh, depending on the size of the house. The beneficiaries of JNNURM low-cost housing project are selected based on three criteria: urban poor, rehabilitation and relocation. However, it was learnt that the reason for most beneficiaries shying away from occupying the houses was the lack of basic infrastructure like water, power, drainage, streetlights and even recreation facilities.
According to Pragada Srinivasu, coordinator, association for regional tribal development for urban wing (ARTDUW), most of the houses were not occupied by the beneficiaries due to various reasons like lack of basic amenities, the fact that the housing sites are very far from city and lack of proper transportation facilities close to the housing project.
One of the beneficiaries of the JNNURM housing project at Lankepalem, P Sannasamma, who also lodged a complaint with GVMC officials about lack of power and water connections in her house, said: "The GVMC commissioner assured me that it will take a month to put in place the power supply. My family had to suffer a lot of problems last summer due to lack of power and water."
Admitting that the civic body was flooded with complaints from JNNURM housing beneficiaries on the lack of basic amenities at the weekly grievance cell, GVMC commissioner MV Satyanarayana claimed that they had provided all basic amenities such as power, tap water, streetlights to the allotted houses at the time of handing over the keys to beneficiaries but many of these were damaged due to non-occupation of houses.
"Nearly items like streetlights, water taps and the like worth Rs 10 lakh were stolen from housing sites that are not yet occupied. We plan to restore the facilities at all allotted houses within two months," he said.
40% JNNURM houses vacant, 20% sold or rented - The Times of IndiaCommentQuote0Flag
- Another commercial complex gutted in Visakhapatnam
VISAKHAPATNAM: In yet another incident that raises an alarm over the lax attitude of commercial establishments towards fire safety, a major fire gutted a four-storeyed commercial complex near Rama Talkies early Saturday morning. Luckily there were no casualties as the fire broke out well before business hours.
The blaze razed the entire ground floor of the commercial complex housing Preethi Emporium that sells household articles, even as the first and third floors were partially burnt. The second floor of the commercial complex was learnt to be unoccupied. Initial estimates peg the losses due to the blaze at around Rs 70 lakh.
According to preliminary reports of the fire and emergency services department, the fire occurred due to a short circuit. However, the authorities are investigating the exact cause of the fire. S V Narasimham, regional fire officer (RFO), fire prevention wing, Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC), said that the commercial complex did not possess the required no-objection certificate from the civic body.
Five fire tenders, including three from the city and one each from Marripalem and Visakhapatnam Port, were rushed to douse the fire that raged on for more than two hours. About 30 fire and emergency services personnel were involved in the firefighting exercise that used the services of the skylift fire tender to spray water on the top floor of the commercial complex.
Giving details, fire officer, Surya Bagh Station, M Sanjiv Rao said, "We received a call from a passerby at around 5.40 am and rushed fire tenders to the complex. When we reached the premises, the ground floor was totally burnt and thick black smoke was emanating from the complex. Investigations will reveal the exact cause of the fire." According to Rao, there were no watchmen deployed at the commercial complex as the alert came from a passerby.
It may be recalled that a major blaze had raged through the Sai Shopping Centre at Dwarakanagar in the second week of April for nearly one and a half hours. Fire and emergency services personnel had rescued nearly 50 people from the building.
Another commercial complex gutted in Visakhapatnam - The Times of IndiaCommentQuote0Flag
- Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation chalks out tall task for water harvesting in Visakhapatnam
VISAKHAPATNAM: The monsoon season is in full swing, yet the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) is still struggling to put in place a proper water harvesting plan for the city. Caught napping, the civic body has now set itself a target of putting up and repairing recharge pits across the city by the second week of July to ensure that the groundwater table does not dip alarmingly during the summer months.
But this seems to be a tall task as the civic authorities would have to deal with the nearly 6200-odd bore wells in the GVMC limits that do not have water harvesting pits (only 10% bore wells have harvesting pits) as well as over 1200 existing recharge pits in 50% of the apartment complexes in the city, of which nearly half are in urgent need of repairs. This even as the remaining 50% of apartment complexes and almost 95% of the individual houses in the city still do not have water harvesting paraphernalia in place.
According to GVMC sources, the civic authorities were banking on the Godavari pipeline to bring waters to the city this year but as the project got delayed there was a mad scramble to put up recharge pits across the city.
Interestingly, by GVMC commissioner MV Satyanarayana's own admission, implementing the water harvesting project in individual houses was impossible this monsoon. He, however, expressed confidence about its implementation in residential high rise buildings. "Water harvesting is compulsory and we have ensured that builders take it up seriously. Money is not a problem as we are collecting Rs 5,000 to 10,000 from each high rise. The only problem is that buildings with harvesting pits do not know how to keep them in working condition, which is where GVMC will play a major role," the GVMC commissioner said, pointing out that for the 6200-odd bore wells without harvesting pits GVMC had already allotted a particular sum as corpus fund.
Though GVMC authorities said they were keen to implement the project on a war footing, concerned individuals and organisations feel the civic body was staring at mission impossible. According to Vikram Rathod of NGO Mission Akash Ganga, though GVMC would have collected around Rs 5-6 crore from apartment owners, the entire water harvesting plan would cost in excess of Rs 12 crore.
According to A V Ramana Rao, secretary, Vizag Apartment Residents Welfare Association, though on paper close to 50% of the apartment complexes in the city have water harvesting pits, half of these have not been built as per stipulations and were virtually redundant. "GVMC needs to take up this project on a war footing and should be more proactive in conducting awareness programmes on a large scale to involve people's bodies as it is mandatory for every structure built over more than 200 square yards to implement water harvesting," Rao said.
Blaming GVMC, Ground Water Board, real estate developers as well as the general public for the entire water mess, Rathod of Mission Akash Ganga said, "In most cases, either an old septic tank or a temporary pit is shown as a water-harvesting pit to get the necessary permissions for construction. The general public too seems to be least bothered about these things when the going is good and rain water fills up our reservoirs. In some cases, residents of multi-storeyed apartments have refused to implement this rule because it would cost nothing less than Rs 18,000 for a proper harvesting pit to be dug up."
However, Rathod pointed out that the only good thing the GVMC had done for water conservation was cracking down on indiscriminate digging of bore wells by private builders.
Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation chalks out tall task for water harvesting in Visakhapatnam - The Times of IndiaCommentQuote0Flag
- GVMC, VSP slug it out over vacant land tax
VISAKHAPATNAM: The Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) and Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP) look all set to lock horns once again over taxes with the civic body now gearing up to slap fresh notices demanding payment of the long-pending vacant land tax (VLT) to the tune of around Rs 64 crore. The notices are expected to be issued in a couple of weeks.
According to GVMC sources, VSP has to pay the civic body nearly Rs 124 crore by way of VLT for the last seven years as a chunk of the over 23,000 acres of land acquired by the state-run steel major is lying vacant. The steel plant and remaining establishments, including residential facilities, are housed in an area of only around 6,000 acres.
As part of its assessment, GVMC had identified more than 15,000 acres of VSP land that is vacant and had imposed VLT of Rs 15 crore per annum a few years ago but as the steel major was embroiled in a legal battle with GVMC, the tax amount had been piling up. It is learnt that the GVMC has already approached legal experts and is now preparing ground to issue notices.
GVMC to serve notices on steel giant in July
GVMC deputy commissioner (revenue) R Somannarayana told TOI that VSP owes the civic body a huge amount in the form of VLT. "GVMC's VLT demand in its entire jurisdiction is Rs 17 crore per annum, excluding the steel plant which owes the highest of Rs 15 crore per annum as per our records," he said.
GVMC has also asked RINL-VSP to provide information on the extent of roads, parks, school buildings and temples in order to exempt these spaces from VLT. However, sources said that the VSP authorities were yet to accede to their request. "If they (VSP) provide those details, then the VLT demand can well reduce to around to Rs 30-40 crore."
When contacted, Srinivasa Rao, zonal commissioner (Zone V), GVMC told TOI that they had sought more details from VSP so that any other structures can be exempted from VLT. "We are waiting for the details from VSP to revise the tax amount. We will serve notices next month," Rao said.
However, VSP officials said there was a court stay on payment of property tax and that they had not received any communication from GVMC on VLT.
This is not the first time that GVMC and VSP have got into an acrimonious spat over tax issues. The two have been locked in a legal tussle since 2006-07 when GVMC issued several notices to the steel giant and had also prepared for attachment of VSP's property for recovery of property tax dues of Rs 13.65 crore and VLT of Rs 15.52 crore.
According to GVMC officials, VSP had countered GVMC by knocking on the doors of the high court, which ordered VSP to pay half of the property assessment tax of Rs 13.65 crore per annum till the matter was sorted out.
Till the merger of Gajuwaka Municipality with GVMC, VSP used to pay only Rs 22 lakh per annum as property tax but with the merger of Gajuwaka Municipality and 32 peripheral areas to create the Greater Visakha in 2005, the steel plant came under the jurisdiction of GVMC, which hiked the tax demand.
The VLT has been a bone of contention between the two warring parties. With the court making no mention of VLT payment, VSP had refused to pay the tax while GVMC has been contending that with the lack of any court directive on VLT, the steel major has to pay 100% of the VLT demand or at least 50% till the issue is resolved.
"We have to collect pending dues from each and every establishment otherwise maintaining GVMC establishments and providing public services would become difficult. The pending amount from VSP is in crores of rupees," said a senior GVMC official.
GVMC, VSP slug it out over vacant land tax - The Times of IndiaCommentQuote0Flag
- Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation to focus on restoring Visakhapatnam's heritage
VISAKHAPATNAM: The Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) has proposed to undertake four projects at a cost of Rs 43 crore to boost tourism by giving a facelift to the city while restoring its heritage and traditional richness.
The corporation has given priority to the restoration of heritage buildings and the heritage walk in the Old City along the Bay of Bengal falling under Visakhapatnam South Assembly constituency at an estimated cost of Rs 18 crore.
GVMC has, with the help of the Visakhapatnam chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), identified about 12 heritage structures for restoration, including Queen Mary High School, Statue of Queen Victoria, Town Hall, Reading Room and Turner's Chowltry.
"It's a good initiative of the corporation as many of the buildings in the Old City are gathering dust because of the lack of care by the authorities concerned," said Kolluri Suryanarayana, retired professor of the department of History, Andhra University.
Among the other key proposals is the revitalization of the 70-year-old Sardar Vallabhai Patel Market, which is popularly known as Poorna Market and is one of the biggest markets in the state, at a cost of Rs 15 crore.
The civic body aims to develop this on the lines of the farmers' market at Mumbai. It will improve infrastructure facilities and also set up a special compost plant at the market premises to generate compost from the tonnes of vegetable waste from the market. Parking lots and recreation facilities for visitors and vegetable storage rooms are some of the other features planned.
At present, the market is in a sorry state and lacks infrastructure. This results in a dearth of customers for the vendors there as very few people frequent the place.
"If the GVMC's plans about Poorna Market materialize, we wouldn't worry about our income," said K Madhu, a vegetable vendor at the market. GVMC has also proposed to develop an eco-tourism project at Shambuvanipalem in zone-I of the corporation, where there is a slum at present, at a cost Rs 5 crore. The corporation hopes to draw tourists and picnickers to the place, which has the natural beauty of the hills and a lake.
The corporation has also decided to develop the Mudasarlova park along the bus rapid transit system (BRTS) towards Simhachalam and Central Jail. The park, which is located amid hills and lush greenery, has been gaining in popularity.
"The Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) and Visakhapatnam Urban Development Authority (Vuda) are always in the forefront of tourism projects in the city. GVMC, which is always busy with sanitary and civil works, has mooted the projects to preserve Vizag's heritage and natural beauty as part of its city development plan for vision 2020," GVMC additional deputy commissioner (projects) B Nagendra Kumar told TOI.
The government would fund some projects through the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) scheme, but GVMC would have to bear the cost of the eco-friendly projects, Nagendra said.
Sourav Dhar, one of the key persons behind the preparation of the projects, said that work on all the four tourism projects are expected to begin in 2015 and be completed by 2020.
Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation to focus on restoring Visakhapatnam's heritage - The Times of IndiaCommentQuote0Flag
- Vuda to settle land pooling project issues
VISAKHAPATNAM: The grievances of land owners and farmers, who joined the land pooling project taken up by Visakhapatnam Urban Development Authority (Vuda) at Paradesipalem, will be placed before the upcoming Vuda board meeting, said vice-chairman Dr N Yuvaraj.
Addressing a meeting with farmers and land owners at the Vuda office here on Thursday, Yuvaraj said grievances and issues would be settled at the meeting. He said requests of a few land owners wanting to withdraw from the project and demanding return of lands will also be placed before the board for decision. The Vuda VC said that land owners allotted plotted areas in place of the land they handed over to Vuda will be as per the agreement and pending registrations of those who have already received allotments will also be completed.
He also directed the Vuda estate officer B Bhavani Das to collect complete details from the land owners and also confirmation letters from those who want to withdraw from the scheme.
With regard to infrastructure in the layout, the Vuda VC clarified that all roads will be laid as per the agreement and arrangements for water supply will also be taken up.
However, the laying of underground drainage will be taken up only after settlement starts in the layout because it could be damaged due to non-utilisation if laid early, he said. Administrative officer B Nagabhushanam was among those who attended the meeting.
Vuda to settle land pooling project issues - The Times of IndiaCommentQuote0Flag