The Loch Ness monster of Hyderabad
By Rahul V Pisharody | Published: 12th October 2013 08:47 AM |
The ‘Adopt a Lake’ scheme was first announced in April, creating quite the excitement among public and private institutions across the city. But as the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) authorities continue to wait for the State government’s final approval for its innovative scheme, a new set of problems seem to cause further delay in its implementation.
Lake activists in the city are planing to approach the government over the recent changes in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which aims to give primary responsibility of lake protection to the Residents’ Welfare Associations (RWA). According to city activists, the RWAs, who they claim are the encroachers themselves, are expected to head the local lake protection committees, thus rendering them as toothless bodies. Instead, the activists are calling for a constitution of local lake protection committees at the Mandal level and District level following the APWALTA act.
Considerable changes to the initial MoU which places a higher responsibility on the RWAs, were approved by the lake protection committee of HMDA and then forwarded to the government for its approval.
“According to these changes, the entire responsibility of protecting the lakes and keeping a vigil falls with RWAs near the lake. All the lakes in Hyderabad are encroached and builders have erected apartments and colonies everywhere within the full tank levels (FTL),” pointed out Thakur Rajkumar Singh of Save Our Urban Lakes (SOUL), adding that such a move to pass on responsibilities to the RWAs would be “most dangerous” and detrimental to the lakes.
He further added that in 2002, the Andhra Pradesh Water, Land and Trees Act (APWALTA) recommended setting up of local lake protection committees at a mandal level, headed by the Tahsildar, and district level, headed by the Collector.
“After 2002, the government has conveniently forgotten about this. Soon after Dasara we will write to the government regarding this issue. Local lake protection committees with RWA’s will not just be a toothless body but also indifferent to real issues,” he reiterated.
RP Khajuria, member-environment, Buddha Purnima Project Authority (BPPA), when contacted, confirmed that interested parties need to apply afresh with the Expression of Interests (EOI) with primary participation of a RWA. He explained that the Full Tank Level (FTL) survey for boundary demarcation was done for about 70 per cent of the lakes and that the Lake Protection Committee (LPC) would examine each bid carefully.
The FTL demarcation and maps will have to be authenticated by the irrigation department and then would be put up in a public domain. “The fact is that many of the RWA themselves do not know that they are inside the FTL. We will not blindly give away anything. We may have to put them on hold. Only those who are clean can adopt the lake,” he said affirmed, adding that “in principle, all lakes are for adoption.”
HMDA till date has identified 455 lakes within the Outer Ring Road (ORR) limit and another 2402 lakes within the HMDA limits. As many as 36 organisations, predominantly private firms, RWAs and educational institutions had submitted an EOI and also had put forward their suggestions on terms of reference/MoU, responsibilities and so on. Following this, it was decided to give primary responsibility of keeping vigil and prevention of commercial exploitation to RWAs, whereas companies and other organisations could participate in the strengthening of the lake.