The Vizag development body plans to spend Rs 50 crore on redeveloping the park. Environmentalists say that recharging the reservoir should be prioritised instead.

Will modernising Vizags Mudasarlova park do further damage to the dried up reservoirFile photo of Mudasarlova reservoir filled with water/Image: Wikimedia Commons
news Environment Friday, July 26, 2019 - 13:30

The Mudasarlova park in Visakhapatnam is up for a massive makeover, with the VMRDA (Visakhapatnam Metropolitan Region Development Authority) chalking plans expected to cost about Rs 50 crore. In the first phase, Rs 19 crore will be spent on ‘modernising’ the park, in order to make a huge tourist attraction in the city, according to the VMRDA. It has been reported that the foundation stone is likely to be laid soon. 

The park shares its name from the Mudasarlova reservoir, which is right next to the park. The reservoir, which has been one of the primary sources of drinking water for Visakhapatnam, is now almost completely dry. Well-known environmentalist Rajendra Singh, who has been dubbed as the 'Waterman of India,' had visited Mudasarlova last month, during a three-day water body rejuvenation yatra in the region. 

During his visit, Rajendra Singh reportedly said that the reservoir could be revived with “political and administrative will and social system allowing it.” He said that the culverts carrying water to the reservoir were “wrongly located”, blocking the streams. He also said that “linkage can be established on the upper side, and the contour of the hill can be followed to make a stream into the lake.”

 Mudasarlova reservoir fence with the dried up water bed in the background/Image credit: Sohan Hatangadi 

Concerns with modernising the park 

Sohan Hatangadi, a Vizag-based environmentalist and historian, believes that the proposal to spruce up the park next to the reservoir is a bad idea. “That place is already bursting at the seams during winter. To try and make an already crowded place a tourist attraction and bring more people there is unreasonable. They will not be giving a better experience to visitors,” he says. 

He also says that the indigenous plants which have been around for nearly half a century will get damaged in the process. “They say they will do it carefully but they won’t. Big machinery moving around will ruin the place,” Sohan says. 

VMRDA Chairman Dronamraju Srinivasa Rao on the other hand insists that there will be absolutely no ecological damage. “It has been done in the past in other places. Even in City Central Park, not a single tree has been destroyed. We are planning to increase the greenery, build better roads, and construct food courts etc. It’s an effort for the people of Vizag,” says Srinivas. 

“If we modernise it, it will be the property of the people of Vizag. We don’t have many such places, other than City Central Park,” he adds. 

The Rs 19 crore in the first phase of the project will reportedly be spent on “development of infrastructure, an entrance arch, amphitheater, play arena, eateries and internal roads”.

Sohan says that when the proposal came up earlier, activists had suggested the VMRDA to be very careful. “We told them to do incremental development rather than major development. Yet they want to spend Rs 19 crore over there. The reservoir has dried up now, but there is a possibility that it might get filled sometime in the future. Having so many visitors next to a reservoir is totally against any environmental principles. We should keep a big buffer distance,” he says. “Because of wind, litter will end up in the water,” he adds. 

Replenishing the reservoir 

Sohan says that the money could be better spent on recharging the reservoir. “What they need to do is free up all the passageways that bring water to this reservoir. The reservoir is more than 100 years old. It’s a valley with hills on all sides. Any rain water trickles down through the hills and lands up in this reservoir. But they have built roads on all three sides, with one side being the bund built by the British. The roads have got inadequate passages for water to flow under the road. They have not given enough tunnels and culverts.”

As a result, the reservoir has been starved of incoming water, he says. “I reckon that going by the global warming and climate change situation, it’s not an exaggeration to say that we will be water starved continuously. So it will be foolhardy to go and spend money on building a park, instead of making arrangements to receive whatever trickle of water we can in the reservoir,” Sohan says. 

Potluri Anil Chowdary, the Managing Director of GreenWaves Environmental Solutions, agrees with Sohan. “Look at Chennai. It’s always today you, tomorrow us. And the day after tomorrow, nobody knows who will be there on the planet,” he says.  

Calling the drying up of the reservoir a man-made disaster, Anil says we should first be doing our part to recharge it. “We can rework the water beds, channelising it the proper way. But building a park is not sustainable development. A lot of flora and fauna development has happened in the past in and around Visakha. We have Shivaji park and others. We don’t require one more park at the risk of affecting the water body,” says Anil. 

Sohan suggests that the residents of the city would be better off if VMRDA re-prioritized its spending.  “If they have Rs 17 crore to squander, then they should spend at least Rs10 crore on building 50 culverts around the place. And a proper wall. Now they’ve only got a barbed wire fence through which every piece of plastic from the road flies into the reservoir. They can also increase the plantation on its northern side, which has a reserved forest.” says Sohan.  

 Plastic caught in the Mudasarlova reservoir fence/Image credit: Sohan Hatangadi 

Srinivas Rao denies that there will be any effects on the reservoir. “Mudasarlova reservoir is a different issue from the modernisation of the park. We are expecting rain to fill the reservoir soon, since we have a good catchment area,” he says. He also assures that efforts are being made to replenish the reservoir. “VMRDA is planning to fix pipelines, and we are focusing on increasing the greenery. We are in talks with Asian Bank for a collaboration to work on this. There’s no danger of water scarcity for the city. Only this year there’s no water. We are praying to god that we get rain,” he says. 

Anil, like Sohan, is not convinced that there will be no negative consequences. “We are still not able to have eco-sustainable tourism. If you see places like Araku, so much plastic waste is generated in the tourist season. Sustainability has to be in the government policy first, and be enforced and implemented in a proper way,” says Anil. 


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