Of late, Visakhapatnam is becoming a cynosure for the common man and tourist folk for state government’s myopic vision coupled with callousness towards preserving the 3rd century BC heritage sites like Bavikonda, Thotlakonda and Pavuralakond for future importance. Appeals from the heritage activists for safeguarding the 2000-year old ancient Buddhist monuments in and around Visakhapatnam largely falling on deaf ears.
Close on the heels of stalling a film shoot by the heritage activists in the town hall, which is under renovation, now another glaring incident of allegedly damaging the geoheritage site of Erra Matti Dibbalu, by a film crew in the guise of obtaining permission from the bheemnipatnam municipality came to the fore. The site is located between Visakhapatnam and Bheemli coast and one of three remaining gullied red dunes formations in the Southeast, which draws a good number of tourists.
Unsolicited activities of outsiders in these age-old heritage sites in connivance with local people are something more agonizing. All this and more, is the tip of the iceberg, tainting the image of the bygone era. It seems historic buildings and heritage sites are regarded by the district administration as “given”, a seam of gold that can be mined for tourist revenue but will never give out. They need protection or maintenance, official claim.
Vizag has transformed over the last decade. The palpable negligence of its splendid inheritance and poor knowledge for the conservation of heritage sites are all the more visible. The age-old bungalows are being demolished and replaced by big high-rise apartments. Indeed, Visakhapatnam is beautiful, but its beauty is sinking into its gutter.
Vizag’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. It has an appeal to attract the casual visitor not just for admiration but for enduring love. However, what is needed is the strong political will to enforce strict implementation of rules for safeguarding our ancient monuments and age-old heritage sites.
Now the state government wants tourists’ flow and even hopes to attract more than other states in the future. With some historical buildings like Townhall and old municipal buildings under renovation, the district administration gradually understands its historic character is as important to business as to passing tourists. The city of destiny has huge potential to show that it can attract visitors. Visakhapatnam keeps its magnetism. Visakhapatnam is infinitely precious. It is now infinitely fragile.