A case of urban planning gone wrong?

With industries finding themselves amidst thick habitations and scattered in all directions in the port city of Vizag following its rapid growth and expansion over the last five decades, the current situation is not ideal either from environmental and safety point of view or planning concepts, feel experts. The concerns have become more pronounced after the gas leak incident in view of the government’s move to make it the Executive Capital.

Updated - May 18, 2020 07:59 am IST

Published - May 17, 2020 10:19 pm IST - visakhapatnam

In 1961 when Hindustan Polymers now LG Polymers India Private Limited, was set up, it was located about 15 km from the centre of Visakhapatnam city. The company has recently been in the news for styrene monomer vapour leak that killed 12 and hospitalised over 350 persons.

It was set up on the land purchased from the Simhachalam Devasthanam in Venkatapuram village, at a remote corner with sparse population except for the farmers of the village.

But today, it is part of the extended city and surrounded by a thick habitation, right from the boundary wall of the company.

Not only LG Polymers, every industry such as HPCL then Caltex Oil that was established in 1957 and Coromandel Fertilisers (1961) were located in remote areas, on the outskirts of the city.

But now all them lie within the city limits and function amidst densely populated areas.

Keeping this in mind, the question that arises is - has the city which experienced exponential growth over the last five decades, faltered in its urban planning?


Environmentalists, social activists and urban planners feel that there are gaps in the urban planning. Normally, when cities are planned, industries are kept on one side and the city takes the advantage of the other side to grow. But in the case of Visakhapatnam, industry growth is scattered in all directions. Hence today we find the industries amidst habitations, opines N. Kalidas of the Institute for Solid Waste Research & Ecological Balance (INSWAREB).

Bowl concept

The topography of Visakhapatnam is like a bowl, with sea on one side and hills on the other three sides. Ideal planning would have been to see that the industries, especially hazardous and polluting industries, are set up outside the bowl area, feels Shabnam Patel, architect and former professor from the Department of Architecture and Planning, Andhra University.Moreover, industries should always be located on the leeward side and not on the windward side. But here in Vizag, there are industries on both sides.

Piecemeal approach

Whenever there is an incident, the authorities concerned take up a fire-fighting operation to achieve short term goals. After the 1997 vapour cloud explosion at the HPCL refinery which claimed 60 lives, there was a proposal to shift the plant. Instead, the plant has expanded, says former bureaucrat E.A.S. Sarma.

Lesson to be learnt

From the past and present incidents, the lesson learnt should be utilised in the right direction. Since the government is planning to shift the capital to this city, this should act as a catalyst to spread the city around the demarcated capital area, remarks architect and urban planner Narasimha Rao.

"It may not be viable to shift big plants such as HPCL, Coromandel or Vizag Steel Plant, but new city can be developed in other areas beyond the bowl," he opines.

According to Municipal Administration Minister Botcha Satyanarayana, the State government will take a decision on the demand for shifting the plant of LG Polymers on the basis of the recommendation of the high-power committee set up by Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy.

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