Amaravati may not become Andhra Pradesh's new capital, Botsa Satyanarayana, Minister of Municipal Administration and Urban Development, hinted today, pointing to the fact that large sections of the region were left flooded by heavy rain. "The Sivaramakrishna Committee pointed out that Amaravati is not a safe place for capital city. Many areas in the capital region are flood-prone, as you have been seeing," the minister said in Visakhapatnam on Tuesday.
The minister, who denied allegations that the government had mismanaged the flood situation, also highlighted rising costs of construction as another reason why the project may not happen.
"People's money has been misused by the previous TDP government. The expenditure on the construction process in Amaravati is more when it is compared to other regions. If you have to invest one lakh rupees elsewhere, here you have to spend two lakh rupees. We will review and take a decision," the minister added.
The senior leader's comments have created quite a stir, with BJP spokesperson Lanka Dinakar reminding Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy that he had not opposed the project when he was Leader of the Opposition.
Former Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which ruled the state before Chief Minister Jagan Reddy's YSR Congress Party swept to power after April polls, has hit out at Mr Satyanarayana's comment, calling it "irresponsible" and "baseless".
"Amaravati was handpicked to be the capital based on its potential in terms of abundance of land and other natural resources at its disposal," the party said in its statement.
"To write off a city citing high cost goes to show the lack of interest and commitment of the State Government to build Amaravati," the statement added.
Botsa Satyanarayana's comments come a month after China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the World Bank dropped proposed loans worth $700 million.
The World Bank had reportedly sought permission to conduct an independent investigation into complaints of irregularities like forced land acquisition. Concerns had also been raised over sanctioning of buildings on the floodplains of the Krishna River.
In its risk assessment report, the World Bank had labelled the project "Category A", signifying it could have "significant adverse environmental impacts".
Ahead of Assembly polls in April, Chief Minister Jagan Reddy alleged the construction of the capital was riddled with massive corruption scams. He also alleged Mr Naidu was involved in the scams.
Mr Naidu, a former BJP ally who quit the NDA last year after the centre refused special status to Andhra, has maintained there is nothing corrupt or irregular in the construction of what he has called a "self-financing project".
Civil society groups like the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and the Working Group on International Financial Institutions had welcomed the withdrawal of loans by the World Bank, saying there had been many violations.