Story of Hyderabad’s IT belt

HYDERABAD: The western zone of the city is the image of modern, hi-tech Hyderabad, but the entire belt, experts and environmentalists say, has an albatross around its neck – of having razed hillocks and ridges to make way for swank commercial establishments and towering office complexes.

Right from the upmarket malls around Durgam Cheruvu and the sky-high office buildings in Lanco Hills to many stretches along the Outer Ring Road (ORR), expert say a number of landmarks are sitting pretty on flattened ridges and hillocks. The result – heightened risk of urban flooding and a severe water crunch during the summer.

“While flattening of ridges and hillocks to make way for infrastructure and real estate projects has been a rampant practice across the city, the western zone, in particular, is infamous for it. Since a ridge is situated on a slope, it doesn’t offer as much area as it could if it is flattened,” said Anant Maringanti, urban planner and executive director of Hyderabad Urban Labs (HUL).

Outlining the perils of transforming ridges into sought-after real-estate pockets, he added, “When a ridge is flattened to build a road or a large complex, it disrupts the natural flow of water and ultimately alters the drainage patterns of the area. This is the reason the area witnesses severe urban flooding, even with a short spell of rain. Cutting into ridges also means that an important watershed is being destroyed.”

A ridge’s role in replenishing the groundwater table of a region was outlined by Sujatha Surepalli, a sociologist who has extensively studied the phenomenon.

“Flattening a ridge, which in itself is a rainwater storage site, will result in acute water shortage in the region. The green cover that usually covers ridges makes it easier for water to seep into the ground. However, with massive concretization of the western zone, the area is now reeling under a severe water crunch as there is no way for the water to enter the ground,” said Surepalli.

Chalking out a timeline for this destruction of the city’s unique geographical features, B V Subba Rao, president, Centre For Resource Education, said, “The area has been the site of rapid urbanization ever since 2000. In addition to completely destroying the storage capacity of lakes via encroachment, the inflows or streams that earlier made their way into these lakes have been blocked as the ridges surrounding lakes, which are important catchment areas, have been razed,” explained Rao.

It was when the business of road widening was introduced post 1995 to provide better access to the Madhapur region that zoning regulations were ignored and geographical features and natural formations transformed into commodities, he elaborated.

“While before 1995, the Jubilee Hills association only allowed large residential plots of more than a thousand square feet to come up on ridges, everything changed post the planning stages of Hi-Tec city. Journalist colony in Jubilee Hills is an example of a residential complex sitting on a flattened ridge. Nandi Hills, which was an important ridge sloping down towards Durgam Cheruvu, has also been commercialized over time. The Bachupally ridge, once an important watershed, has now been completely destroyed after the state government gave permissions for pharma and chemical industries to come up right on the ridge,” rued Rao.

In fact, Durgam Cheruvu, which is one of the important catchment areas of the elevated IT corridor, was earlier flanked by ridges on three sides, say environmentalists.

“It was known as ‘the secret lake’ and was surrounded by ridges and beautiful hillocks. In addition to supporting lush greenery, it was also responsible for bringing streams of water down to the lake. Now, however, only sewage from the surrounding commercial establishments flows into the catchment area,” lamented environmentalist Capt Rama Rao.

He pointed out that parts of Kavuri Hills were also situated on a ridge leading to Durgam Cheruvu. “The cons of treating nature as a commodity will soon hit us,” he cautioned.

Others echoed similar warnings. “The infrastructure of the entire IT belt, which lacks a storm water drainage system, will collapse in a decade. Once this happens, investments will also stop pouring in. The state government must revamp the urban planning of the entire area if it wants to prevent this,” cautioned Subba Rao.

Credits ET Realty

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