Amaravati, Nov 19: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has given nod for construction of Andhra Pradesh’s capital city Amaravati and for Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu the news could not have come at a better time.
He was in Visakhapatnam to host Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The IT Czar-turned-philanthropist, who is most admired by Naidu, was in the coastal city on Friday to attend the valedictory of the AP AgTech Summit 2017.
The event was marked by bonhomie between the two. Describing Naidu as his ‘best friend’, Gates recalled their first meeting over 20 years ago and described how he was impressed with the chief minister when he displayed his strong belief in digital technology and explained his vision to use the latest tools for improving the governance.
At the event jampacked with national and international delegates, Naidu was apparently enjoying the praise from the man, still considered the richest person in the world.
Gates was returning the compliments after the TDP chief heaped praise on him and went on to describe him as the ‘greatest personality’ and source of inspiration for many around the world.
Recalling his first meeting with Gates in 1995-96, Naidu described how he could get 10-minute appointment with Gates but the latter spent 40 minutes with him, watching his presentation and hearing his views.
Naidu also sought help from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the state in agriculture, nutrition and health. He also offered him to be a patron of a committee which he will head for agricultural transformation.
The event was a huge success for Naidu as Gates lauded his initiatives to use technology to transform the agriculture and explained how this can be the recipe for India’s economic transformation.
This was the second victory of the day for Chandrababu Naidu as earlier NGT cleared the hurdles in the path of his dream project – Amaravati. The green panel refused to stay the environmental clearance accorded to the construction of the capital.
The NGT felt that large-scale works related to the project had been executed at public expense, so any prohibitory directions at this stage would not only jeopardise the financial interests of the state but also pose a serious issue capable of causing environmental and ecological degradation to the disadvantage of the public.
A three-member bench of the NGT, however, observed that the project falls under category ‘B’ of the EIA Notification of 2006, and thus the imposition of additional conditions will be necessary.
It imposed the condition that the project proponent shall conduct a comprehensive study on the hydro-geomorphology of the area to plan water retention ponds, re-servoirs, stormwater drains and their inte-rconnectivity, so as to optimize water conservation, both surface and sub-surface.
Any alteration of the flood plains by the construction of stormwater drains, retention ponds and related development should be done only after conducting a study.
No alteration of the river or natural stormwater morphology, flow pattern or location by way of straightening shall be permitted. Such alteration may result in an increase in soil erosion and sediment transport due to raised velocity.
The judgment was still a huge victory for Naidu as some environmentalists had moved the NGT on the ground that the project coming up on the banks of Krishna river will degrade the environment.
Hailing the NGT verdict, he vowed to build green and blue city. He promised that 9,000 acres of area in the city will have green cover.
The TDP chief also tried to score political point by alleging that opposition YSR Congress Party tried to create hurdles in the project by approaching NGT and courts.
The judgement will help Naidu to fast-track the project. In fact, on the day when NGT gave its nod, Naidu attended the second meeting of the Joint Implementation Steering Committee with Singapore’s Minister of Trade and Industry S. Iswaran in Amaravati to review the progress made so far.
The NGT rejected the contention of petitioners P Srimannarayana and EAS Sarma who wanted the project to be stayed on the grounds that it involved gross violation of green laws.
Social activist Pandalaneni Srimannarayana of Vijayawada had filed the original petition and subsequently, retired bureaucrat EAS Sarma filed a petition in which he said that the environmental clearances were granted in violation of rules and under pressure and sought their cancellation.