A.P. develops cold feet over cultural centre near Buddhist site

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The Hindu

VISAKHAPATNAM, November 7, 2016
Updated: November 7, 2016 01:13 IST
SANTOSH PATNAIK

A huge Buddhist monastery dating back to 3rd Cenury BC is believed to have existed atop Thotlakonda and the nearby Bavikonda hillocks located between Visakhapatnam and the 17th century Dutch township of Bheemunipatnam.

After finding itself on a sticky wicket over allotment of 15 acres of prime land near the famous Thotlakonda Buddhist site for establishment of Filmnagar Cultural Centre, the government appears to have developed cold feet.

Following vociferous protests from Buddhist monks, various social action groups and BJP MLA P. Vishnu Kumar Raju, the government at the highest level had decided to go-slow on the project, highly placed sources told The Hindu.

A huge Buddhist monastery dating back to 3rd Cenury BC is believed to have existed atop Thotlakonda and the nearby Bavikonda hillocks located between Visakhapatnam and the 17th century Dutch township of Bheemunipatnam.

The sites have been declared as archaeologically sensitive areas. INTACH members and conservation activists have been pressing for protection of the heritage sites especially in the light of attempts to commercialise them to promote tourism.

“Establishment of a recreation centre in an archaeologically sensitive area has hurt our feelings. It should be dropped immediately,” said Buddhist monk Dharmananda Bhante.

While defending the decision to develop the cultural centre with an investment of Rs.100 crore consisting of an international convention centre with a seating capacity for 2,200, sports complex and an ultra modern gym, an official said only if such facility was created on the beachside, Vizag could emerge as a film production hub.

Rama Naidu film studio has come up at Thimmapuram near the picturesque Rushikonda beach. The government has already asked the AP Industrial Infrastructure Corporation to identify 300 acres for allotment to set up film studios proposed by Puri Jagannath, V.V. Vinayak, Ram Charan Tej and a few others.

Following protests the government had shelved earlier a proposal to lay a 60-ft. road through the Buddhist site. The proposal to develop Filmnagar Cultural Centre would definitely deface the archaeologically sensitive site, said heritage activist Rani Sarma.

HRD Minister Ganta Srinivasa Rao, who laid the foundation stone for the Centre on October 9 in the presence of Movie Artistes’ Association president and veteran actor Rajendra Prasad, later declared that if it was proved that the site in question was in the protected area, they would relocate it.

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