While the government is going ahead with construction of a bigger luxury resort atop Rushikonda in Vizag, environmentalists question its need now
This is for all the 17th and 18th century Dutch, French and English sailors who had braved the high seas to reach the port cities of Vizagapatam and Bheemunipatam (as they were then called) in their sailing ships: Your ‘sugarloaf’ mountain may not look the same in the future, as the existing Haritha Resort on the hill has been demolished to pave way for a bigger luxury resort.
This may also stand good for the Romans, who, in the 2nd century BC, had come all the way to Thotlakonda in oar-driven galley ships to trade with the Buddhist monks, or exchange notes on different philosophies.
The ‘Sugarloaf’ mountain, or colloquially called Rushikonda, had earned the sobriquet from the Europeans because from a distant horizon from the sea, the mountain looked like a loaf of sugar on a plateau.
Symbol of identity
For ages, the geographical feature, when seen through the telescope, stood out like a proud symbol of identity across the blue waters of the Bay and sun-kissed golden sands.
This was the only symbol for the sailors of the bygone era that they were nearing the coast and the ports of Vizagapatam and Bheemunipatam were close by.
The hill is strategically located between the Dolphin’s Nose and Bheemunipatam. It is also an identified ‘Triangular Station’ of the Geological Survey of India.
Once the resort comes up, the rooms will have a splendid view of the Bay and the guests can bask in the soft rays as the sun rises, but the ‘Sugarloaf’ will never look the same again.
There is criticism on the issues that are unfolding, and the opposition parties are trying to score brownie points, but the State government has got the CRZ clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for the construction of the resort on a land measuring about 9.8 acres with a built-up area of 19,968 square metres at a cost of ₹240 crore.
Tourism Minister M. Srinivasa Rao has already said that the existing old resort will be re-developed, as the potential of Rushikonda has gone up manifold after being certified as a ‘Blue Flag’ beach.
“It is a legal project and all permissions and clearances have been obtained. Primarily, it is for development of tourism that will have a holistic impact, including employment generation,” he said.
But people having concern for environment and heritage raise one question – is it necessary to build a resort on a hill that identifies with the culture and history of the region, especially when there is plenty of land available along the coast?
It is true that the aesthetic value of the resort doubles if it comes up on the hill, but at what cost?
Constructing the resort in 1984, when the CRZ rules were not there, should have been avoided and the originality should have been retained, said a few environmentalists.
There are a number of stories associated with the hill and it is revered by the locals.
Though there is no evidence to prove its mythological connection, many believe that the hill was named Rushikonda as the revered ‘Sapta Rishis’ (seven sages) had performed penance on it.
“There is no proof to substantiate it, and it is myth. But, at the foot of the hill, there is a Lord Siva temple, which is about 150 years old,” said K. Suryanarayana, former Head of Department of History, Andhra University.
“The hill falls under the Thotlakonda, Bavikonda and Pavuralakonda Buddhist heritage circuit, and we cannot rule out that it does not have a 2nd century Buddhist connection, as no exploration, excavation or investigation has been taken up. The name of the hill can also come from this connection,” Prof. Suryanarayana said.