Erramatti Dibbalu- A unique geo-heritage site near Visakhapatnam- Being subject to spoliation through official connivance

Erramatti Dibbalu


Shri Vivek Bharadwaj

Union Miines Secretary

Dear Shri Bharadwaj,

Erramatti Dibbalu (Red Ravines) are part of a unique stretch of red ravines adjacent to the Bay of Bengal coast close to Visakhapatnam city. Originally, it extended over thousands of acres but a portion of it has been taken over by the Indian Navy for locating their strategic establishment. What is left today has an extent in excess of 2,000 acres. I have attached here a Google Earth image of the EMD as of this date.

I had earlier written more than once to the Union Ministry of Mines and the State government appealing to them to protect the above-cited red ravines. I have enclosed copies of the correspondence here.

Erramatti Dibbalu (EMD) not only constitutes a unique geological site but also has been found to have highly valuable pre-historic archaeological evidence. There is published research literature on the subject.

The entire stretch of the EMD has been classified as “red ravines” in the village revenue records of the AP government. The Google Earth image clearly shows the terrain filled with ravines extending along a stream that drains rainwater into the sea. Parts of the EMD fall within CRZ I and CRZ III, notified under the CRZ notification issued by the Union Environment Ministry under the Environment (Protection) Act (EPA).

The GSI notified the EMD, through a Resolution dated 19-7-2014 (enclosed), as a “Geo Heritage Site” to be conserved. Meanwhile, the Union Mines Ministry is processing a Bill for protecting such geological heritage sites. The GSI issued such a notification after heritage activists here highlighted the importance of the site, and organised two national seminars with experts from GSI and geologists and anthropologists from academic institutions across the country.

Even otherwise, the EMD, as a site important from the point of view of its environmental implications, including its being partially located within CRZ I and CRZ III, calls for protection under the EPA and the CRZ notification. Additionally, since it also has invaluable pre-historic archaeological evidence, it attracts the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, of 1958.

I may also mention in this connection that there is a PIL initiated suo moto by the Hon’ble AP High Court on the need to protect the EMD in which the State Government and the local authorities are respondents.

Meanwhile, as a result of connivance between the local officers and sand contractors/ real estate developers, there have been continuing threats to the integrity of the EMD, as a result of which considerable damage has already occurred.

In the past, the State government erroneously allotted around 95 acres to a local housing society, as evident from the State Govt Order No.99 (Industries & Commerce) dated 12-7-2016. It is reported that the housing society secured a direction from the apex court for such allotment. Apparently, the State’s officials, for reasons best known to them, failed to place all relevant information before the apex court, including the fact that a large extent in excess of 2000 acres within which such a land allotment was made constituted an environmentally important natural geological feature, that portions of the land fell within the ambit of CRZ I and CRZ III notified under the CRZ notification, that there was prehistoric archaeological evidence in that stretch and parts of that stretch were also covered by Survey numbers classified as “red ravines” in the State’s revenue records.

As far as the total extent of EMD is concerned, to date, there has been no accurate survey done. The VUDA had in the past attempted to map the EMD and their approved sketch map, showing an extent of more than 1700 acres is attached here. It appears that the coordinates indicated in GSI’s notification (17degrees 51′ 56” and 17 degrees 52’46” latitude, 83 degrees 24′ 29” and 86 degrees 26′ 39” longitude) and the area indicated by them do not seem to capture the entire extent of the geological feature as clearly visible even today in the attached Google Earth image. These ravines constitute a complex network, often difficult to access. That could be the reason that neither the GSI nor the local revenue authorities could accurately demarcate its boundaries.

Irrespective of different areas indicated by different authorities, both the concerned Central Ministries (Mines, Environment & Culture) and the concerned State authorities should recognise the fact that the entire stretch of the EMD as visible in the Google Earth image, at least to the extent that still remains today, be calibrated w.r.t the ground reality of that feature, and fully and unequivocally notified as a stretch that needs to be protected under the EP Act, the CRZ notification and the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, of 1958 and urgent steps, legislative/ administrative taken forthwith to re-notify the entire stretch, fence it for protection so that it may be conserved for the posterity. Any such survey needs to be carried out in consultation with the GSI, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), anthropologists familiar with the earlier research conducted on the existence of prehistoric settlement, experts in knowledge of the CRZ norms etc.

If the State govt is committed to allotting land to the housing society, it can show them alternate land, as no housing complex can be permitted to come up in violation of the laws cited. I may remind both the Centre and the State authorities that the apex court some time ago ordered the demolition of the Maradu multi-storeyed apartments near Cochin in Kerala, as they were allowed to come up in violation of the CRZ norms. There is no reason as to why the same norm should not apply to the proposed housing complex being taken up by the housing society.

I have seen reports of parts of the EMD stretch being included by the State govt in a “land pooling” scheme for undertaking construction activity. Heavy equipment can be seen within the natural EMD stretch but outside the erroneously notified stretch of it, engaged in levelling the dunes, causing irreversible damage to the unique geological feature. Sand contractors supported by political leaders are also active in quarrying sand from the heart of the EMD. All these activities constitute a breach of the public trust and acts of illegality which need to be stopped immediately.

Perhaps, the Union Mines Ministry, in consultation with the GSI and the State government, should approach the apex court, place the above facts before it and get the directions issued in respect of the housing society appropriately modified. In my view, the State government should investigate how the concerned officials failed to place all the relevant facts before the apex court in that case.

I appeal to the Union Ministries of Mines, Environment and the ASI to intervene urgently in the matter and take immediate steps to protect whatever is left of this unique geological feature in all respects.


Yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma

Former Secretary to the Government of India


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