Encroachments eating into Bavikonda Hill?

Times of India
TNN | Apr 29, 2015, 04.54AM IST

VISAKHAPATNAM: The 2000-year-old Buddhist heritage site on Bavikonda Hill near Bheemili Road seems to be facing a threat of encroachment as a part of the hill, very close to the heritage site, has been fenced off allegedly for private construction activity against archaeological norms.

The private site supervisor, who happened to be on the spot when this correspondent visited the place, said a private building is coming up. Sources indicated that a former chief minister’s kin owns the government’ land but authorities seem to be unaware of the issue.

The Bavikonda Buddhist Complex, located atop a 130-metre hill nearly 20 km from the Port City, is one of the four Buddhist heritage sites in the district and is situated close to the Thotlakonda Buddhist heritage site. No tourist could be spotted on the sprawling complex, which houses various kinds of ancient stupas and viharas, but is now overrun by dry reeds. The watchman, Ram Naidu, said, “Hardly any visitors come here. Usually, youngsters carrying liquor bottles frequent the place.”

Barely a five-minute walk from the heritage site through a red earthen track takes one to a huge fenced plot admeasuring around six-seven acres. When asked about the fenced plot, a person who identified himself as the site supervisor Acchu Babu, said, “Some building is coming up. I’m not sure whether it will be an institute or a residential building.”

Reliable sources, who visited the site earlier, indicated that one of the persons present there had mentioned that a certain private educational institution, which owns a chain of colleges, might be building a new centre there. Interestingly, the educational institution in question belongs to the kin of a former Andhra Pradesh chief minister. In fact, according to sources, most of the land up the hills between Rushikonda-Bheemili Road are benami property of politicians.

The entire hill legally belongs to the state department of archaeology and museums. When asked about the issue, AP State Department of Archaeology and Museums assistant director K Chitti Babu denied any knowledge of upcoming construction activity in the area. “The entire 360 acres belong to our department and is a protected area. The fence could also be a boundary for our site. In case anyone attempts to encroach, action will be taken against them. There are some parcels of land on Bavikonda Hill that were given to private parties earlier by the state government,” Chitti Babu admitted.

However, when asked Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach) member and noted heritage activist Rani Sarma stated, “Whether government or private, nobody is allowed to construct any concrete structure in and around protected areas and certainly not up Bavikonda Hill as it’s against archaeological norms. We have to be cautious that no such constructions come up in future either.”

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