HYDERABAD: This is one long drawn battle with no end in sight.
On one side are a number of the city’s technocrats and bureaucrats united by their passion for golf, and on the other is a group of civil society activists out to protect the remnants of Hyderabad’s dying heritage.
The Hyderabad Golf Club, which has been mired in controversy for the past many months regarding encroachment of heritage space, changing of contours of heritage sites and mismanagement of existing lakes, firmly refuted all such claims at a press conference here on Tuesday.
Explaining that golf is a sport that required no building construction but could be built around natural boundaries, Asadulla Pasha, captain, HGC, argued that claims by the NGO Forum for a better Hyderabad against the same, were baseless.
“We are not interested in taking over monuments, mosques or graveyards.
The area surrounding the course has been encroached by settlers and the government wanted us to set up a golf course to ensure a lung space in the heart of Hyderabad and to prevent further encroachment,” he said.
Addressing the fact that the HGC was only a licensee holder to build a golf course, he further said that all necessary rules and regulations had been complied with before construction began.
“There is a claim that we are encroaching lakes.
We are not.
Rather the course recycles close to 1 million tonnes of sewage water that passes through nearby lakes daily to meet our water needs.” C Dayakar Reddy, joint secretary, made a detailed presentation highlighting the earlier state of the Jamjali Kunta area which was a 25-30 ft high dumpyard and the present day greenery that had come up in its place.
“There are allegations that we have raised the ground level around the Naya Qila area by 5 ft.
But actually it is only 3-5 inches and that too for grassing purposes without affecting the contours of the region,” he clarified.
The club officials also pointed out that the route to visit the heritage sites will remain open for public.
“Land sharks in and around the area don’t like the fact that the land given to the club cannot be encroached upon.
That, and rather a dislike for golf, which they see as an elitist sport, are the reasons for these unwanted allegations,” he said, adding, “even the surveys done here have been done so, based on orders issued by the High Court.” And indeed, this general feeling of an elite sport occupying so much of land space and the use of private forces to prevent encroaching instead of the government handling the issue on its own is what is leading Jasveen Jairath of the Forum for Better Hyderabad to lead the fight against the golf club.
“I have many friends who are members of the golf course, so I have nothing personal against the HGC.
Rather, my fight is against the government and the ASI for giving such unsound sanctions,” she told City Express.
“Isn’t it the government’s responsibility to evict encroachers instead of allowing privatisation of the land? Anyways there is no encroachment around the Naya Qila area, so why is the golf club given permission to expand its course into that region? ASI should instead seek to develop the area around Naya Qila based on archaeological recommendations,” she said.
Asked if both the warring parties were ready to sit down and talk, she replied, “I do not refuse to have a dialogue.
Rather it is the best way to discuss the issue even if we can’t convince each other.
I have even met a few club officials informally a number of times and we have decided to sit together for a meeting.
Whenever they are ready, my team will also come forward for discussions on the same.
If Pakistan and India can sit for dialogues, why can’t we?”