HYDERABAD: Water shortage as a matter of crisis doesn’t ring a new bell in Hyderabad anymore. But the city’s declining groundwater reserves might just have found the perfect culprit to share the blame on, apart from just indiscriminate borewell digging — the slow death of city lakes.
Throwing light on the city’s rapidly declining water body area, a research work done by Dr KS Rajan and Dr RC Prasad, professors of spatial informatics at the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Hyderabad, using satellite images recorded from 1989-2001 and 2006 and 2009 has revealed that over the past two decades, the number of lakes in existence dropped from 997 to 978 ( which includes four medium sized lakes of 200-400 hectares/ha), with the total area encompassed by water bodies shrinking from 17178 ha to 13933 ha; a reduction in lake area by almost 20%.
“We analysed a 50-km radius around Hyderabad. The maximum decline in lake area has been recorded in the north-western and north-eastern part of the city”, said Dr KS Rajan. He further noted that these regions had witnessed immense growth in the recent past. In the NW region which comprises localities such as Kukatpally, Serilingampally, Patencheruvu and Miyapur among others, the area has reduced from 6000 ha to less than 3500 ha with real esate projects on the rise, while in the NE region which comprises regions like Malkajgiri and Alwal, the area has reduced by more than 50%, from 4500 ha to less than 2000 ha. Incidentally, both regions have in the recent past been involved in a number of land grabbing cases and allegations by activists and residents, in equal numbers.
But Dr Rajan explained that not all lake area reduction could be attributed to encroachment alone. “There are cases where low rainfall might have resulted in dry land area, while in some areas eutrophication and shrinkage due to garbage dumping leads to alternate development plans for the lake, such as how Necklace Road and Sanjeevaiah Park came up in the city”, he said.
Dr Prasad also pointed out that the study was forced to ignore extremely small lakes or water bodies, data of which once included, could actually lead to further reduction in area figures. “The images show the bigger lakes as being encroached on the fringes, though the resolution makes it difficult to study extremely small bodies. But once we start analysing newer data using higher resolution satellite images, we can clearly study the social impacts of lake area reduction and the causes behind it.”
The duo have already set their sights on studying major lakes in and around the city, right from 1974 to the present day, as part of their next phase of lake study and its impact on society. “We just concluded our research on the Shamirpet Lake, which is situated right adjacent to the Outer Ring Road. Not only has the area been reduced by half there, with small-scale encroachment taking place on the opposite bank, of the ten villages dependent on it, two are already facing water crisis for agricultural and domestic activities,” mentioned Dr Rajan. The duo is collabarating with the NGO, Save Our urban Lakes (SOUL) as well as with SACI Waters, to study the reduction in lakes in peri-urban areas.