Visakhapatnam, popularly known as City of Destiny and Jewel of the east coast is the largest city in Andhra Pradesh, which lies between the Eastern Ghats and the coast of Bengal. It continues to hold tourists in thrall with having sun-kissed beaches. natural wildlife sanctuaries, historic caves, and 3rd century BC heritage sites. Made of equal parts in spirituality and nirvana, Vizag is a tourist’s paradise in Southeast Asia and a wannabe metropolis. The lively mess of dizzying upcoming skyscrapers and colossal shopping malls jammed up against residential apartment buildings and homes. Crammed streets bustle with sidewalk vendors and motorbikes, and 2 lakh registered cars overwhelm roads designed for just 1.5 million.
Visakhapatnam is gay at night with solar-powered lights and its hotels, I-maxes, restaurants, and shops doing brisk business during the period. The jerry-built streets and well-tended apartments are the most captivating and terrible changes being wrought on it make the man on the street ponder awhile. In reality, they are in a league of their own, and most foreign tourists would be content to see and go home.
Vizag with its remarkable yet magnificent historical monuments and heritage buildings are vanishing slowly. It’s a place now becoming a cynosure for the common man and tourist folk for state government’s myopic vision and callousness towards preserving historical structures for future importance. 3rd century BC heritage sites like Bavikonda, Thotlakonda and Pavuralakonda and the ashes of Buddha were found in a Mahasthupa at Bavikonda are lying in tatters. Appeals of the NGOs regarding safeguarding the 2000-year old ancient Buddhist monuments in and around Visakhapatnam largely falling on deaf ears. Passing the buck is a regular feature. The opulent cultural heritage of the country should be shielded in the name of development.
Visakhapatnam has been transformed over the last decade. It is less cameos picturesque poverty, more object lessons in how the community should plot its prosperity and not leaves market forces unchecked. Vizag is despicably neglecting its no-less splendid inheritance, mumbling always that they are too poor for fine buildings. Perhaps, the chief reason is that it ignores its appearance. The age-old bungalows are being demolished and replaced by office blocks and flats. Poverty is not the reason for the ugly spread of hoardings or for rich property owners to ignore maintenance. In the back of the grime, over-crowding, and corruption, Visakhapatnam is beautiful, but its beauty is sinking into its gutter. Instead of competing by restoring and boosting of its history, Visakhapatnam seems to set on a path to Latin-American ugliness.
Officials claim that they need utmost protections and time-bound maintenance. The unscrupulous pursuit of outsiders in complicity with local people is something that is more surprising and agonizing. All this and more, are the tip of the iceberg of Visakhapatnam’s age-old history now tainting the image of a bygone era. “There are ‘action plans’ for hotels, roads, faster transport but scarcely any mention of conserving the Visakhapatnam’s historical monuments that tourists were coming to see” voiced a top bureaucrat in the secretariat by pleading anonymity.
The age-old buildings retaining its scruffy bustle and many other old structures enveloped in choking fumes from which even the most indulgent lover of Visakhapatnam’s street life must recoil. The suburbs of Visakhapatnam are similarly blighted. Nevertheless, will tourists have the time or tendency to drive for hours in Ghat roads to see valleys and temples at every nook and corner of the zones, when the age-old heritages crumbles away and what remains has been marinated in Carbon-mono-oxide?
Visakhapatnam’s attraction lies not just in the beauty of its antiquities, but also in their setting, in the harmony of the street, temples, and hills far away from the hustle-bustle. Indeed, it has the appeal to evoke from even the most casual visitor, not just for admiration but enduring love. Vizag protests that such talk is code for keeping them poor. That is nonsense. Opulence is not the enemy of conservation, as the European cities show. Nor, does conservation require wealth. What is needed is the strong political will to enforce that tourist revenue goes into safeguarding what tourists see, not into the pockets of the already rich. Penury does not stop its Chief Ministers and ministers living in regal splendor. Most historic buildings in Visakhapatnam are being destroyed by the rich not the poor. Only a few historical buildings though dilapidated emerge clean from jams and smog.
More to the point, it wants tourists’ flow. It hopes to attract even more than other states in the future. Airports have been upgraded to international status. The number of flights risen including foreign airlines expected to increase their frequency by adding many more routes to the gulf and South East Asia. With some historical buildings under renovation, the district administration gradually understands its historic character is as important to business as to passing tourists. Vizag has huge potential to show that it can attract visitors. What attracts visitors also attracts the investment that Vizag desperately needs. It is no providence that the city is palpably booming. Visakhapatnam is also the most carefully tended and civilized to live. Visakhapatnam keeps its magnetism. Visakhapatnam is infinitely precious. It is now infinitely fragile.
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