Is a vigorous monsoon, as Met officials term it, the only reason why the last few days have left city partially submerged?
Certainly not, say environmentalists attributing the flood-like situation haunting multiple pockets of the city to the phased destruction of major lakes and naalas. According to irrigation department records, Hyderabad sits pretty on an expansive wealth of over 3,000 lakes. However, at present, the figure isn’t even one tenth of that. Alarmingly , only a minuscule 169 lakes have a water spread of over 10 hectares, an indication of how intertwined political and real estate ambitions have dealt a death blow to many water bodies.
That the Nizam’s city once flaunted a seamlessly designed network of lakes is, perhaps, beyond comprehension now. The system allowed surplus water from one lake to cascade into the next and eventually flow into the Musi River. This not only kept flooding under check, but saved the city from going dry.
“That cascading system has been ruptured repeatedly over the past many decades. Water bodies along these networks have been ruthlessly blocked to make way for real estate projects, which in turn has resulted in frequent inundation of localities. We don’t need exceptionally heavy rains for the city to get flooded anymore, even a sudden bout can lead to extensive damage,” rued Jasveen Jairath, founder convener of Save Our Urban Lakes. Citing the example of Talkie Town theatre complex in Miyapur, Jairath said, it sits bang on the full tank level of Patel Cheruvu. “Yet, undeterred, owners have recently built a modern multi-storied structure on a naala! If this is the state of affairs, how can we avoid flooding,” she said.
The unchecked growth of the realty mafia, in connivance with corrupt political forces, has spelt doom for Hyderabad, say experts. Right from upscale colonies of Banjara and Jubilee Hills, to ageing bylanes of ‘purana sheher’, to new-age communities of Madhapur, Gachbowli, the story, they say, is the same. “There has been widespread interference with natural water-ways for decades now. Even the horrific 2000 floods was the result of encroachments on lake beds and naalas,” recalled heritage expert Sajjad Shahid, lamenting that no lessons had been learnt from that tragedy.”This (encroachment) is still continuing on lakes around Golconda Fort, Kukatpally and other areas,” he said.
Given the destruction of water bodies, experts aren’t shocked the city is grappling with major water woes.Urban geographer Anant Maringanti pegged the consequences of recent rains to “dumping of a concrete city atop an agrarian landscape”. “Authorities no longer know, or are even interested in knowing, the gradient of a land these days. A piece of land is simply defined by its boundaries. The memoir of irrigation tanks that was once meticulously created has also been lost. Roads have sprung up along stream ways and existing drainage system isn’t equipped to carry rainwater. Where can the water go in that case?” he said.
Environmentalist Capt J Rama Rao, said, “Given the present political system, I will be only too glad if the situation does not worsen.There is no hope for the city to improve considering how profitable the property business is. Land fetches money, lakes and water-bodies don’t. So encroachments are bound to continue to help the realty sector flourish,” Rao said.”The truth is, lakes have turned into colonies over the years,” he added.
Guess Hyderabad has made its bed and must lie in it now!
Credits Times of India