HYDERABAD: KCR had promised to scrap GO 111, imposed to protect the Himayat Sagar and Osman Sagar reservoirs from pollution and to prevent construction activities within a 10-km radius upstream & downstream the reservoirs; while political leaders claim the order is a hindrance to development, environmentalists warn of serious consequences.
One of the biggest promises made by Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao during the recently-concluded Assembly elections was the scrapping of Government Order (GO) 111. The order restricts various kinds of construction works and development within the 10-km radius of Himayat Sagar and Osman Sagar drinking water reservoirs. The CM had promised at a public meeting in Chevella to do this within six months of getting elected to power.
Scrapping the GO, however, is easier said than done. The GO 111 has witnessed opposition from various quarters over the time, since it was issued by the then Andhra Pradesh government in 1996. In 1999, a case pertaining to the GO reached the Supreme Court. A company had established its plant in Shamshabad within the 10km radius of the two water bodies and wanted exemption to operate the factory. When the company was not granted exemption for the same by the pollution control board, it approached the apex court.
Based on the ‘precautionary principle’, the SC upheld in 2000 that the company cannot operate in the 10-km radius. It further pointed out that allowing even a single polluting industry in the catchment area of the two reservoirs might prove sufficient to render water unsafe for drinking. While the SC did not allow exemption for even one polluting unit, the government now wants the GO 111 to be scrapped. This may, in fact, pave way for the establishment of many industries or real estate layouts that could contribute to the pollution of the two reservoirs.
The government’s primary contention is that Himayat Sagar and Osman Sagar are no more drinking-water sources for Hyderabad, as they are working on the laying of pipelines to ensure water supply from Krishna and Godavari rivers for the entire population of Greater Hyderabad. In a case pertaining to this, the State had said in the High Court last year that the two reservoirs are redundant.
Ironically, due to water shortage in the Singur and Manjira reservoirs this year, the HMWS&SB had started tapping the water resources of Himayat Sagar and Osman Sagar. In fact, the water from here will also be supplied to various parts of Cyberabad.
This is the point that environmentalists have been raising, in their attempt to protect the GO 111 from getting scrapped. “The government is promising that it will fulfil Hyderabad’s needs with the water from Krishna and Godavari river. But what if things go wrong? What if both the rivers do not have enough water? Shouldn’t Hyderabad have a foolproof resource to provide drinking water in times of crisis? We need to conserve the two reservoirs to deal with such a scenario in an era of climate change,” said Purushotham Reddy, an environmentalist.
While the environmentalists have their arguments in place in favour of not scrapping the GO 111, so do the residents of 84 villages where the GO is in force. Former sarpanch of Shamshabad gram panchayat, Rachamalla Siddeshwar said, “For the last 23 years, development has been stalled in every village where the GO has been in force. The government takes up construction works as it wishes despite the GO being in force. But the residents are not even allowed to construct a house. Despite being a stone-throw away from Hyderabad, Shamshabad has seen no development.”
When contacted, TRS leader Patlolla Karthik Reddy said, “Around 156 small villages and hamlets suffer from a poor standard of living and lack of opportunities due to the GO 111. Over the last 23 years, overall development has been hindered in these villages. They cannot continue to live like second class citizens. There is a need for expanding the Grama Kantam area in these villages too, which has not been possible because of the GO.”
What is GO 111?
The restrictions prohibiting various development activities in the 10-km radius around Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar were first brought in by the Andhra Pradesh government in 1994, in the form of GO 192. These restrictions were as per the recommendation of an Expert Committee constituted by the HMWS&SB, in order to ensure safe drinking water quality standards in the two reservoirs. However, the HMWS&SB had furnished a second interim report of the committee, prepared after detailed discussions and field visits, recommending further mechanisms for conserving the reservoirs, following which GO 111 was issued in 1996. According to the GO 111, it is aimed at prohibiting “polluting industries, major hotels, residential colonies or other establishments that generate pollution, in the catchment of the lakes up to 10 kms from full tank level” of the two reservoirs
Thakur Rajkumar Singh of Hyderabad had approached the National Green Tribunal in 2016, regarding the violations of GO 111. During the course of hearing, it was revealed that 12,500 illegal structures had come up in violation of the order. After the Telangana government set up a high power committee in December 2016 consisting of two Special Chief Secretaries and MD of HMWS&SB to look into the relevance of GO 111, it informed the NGT that it is awaiting the report by this committee. For two years, the NGT kept postponing the hearing, waiting for the report. The government was even fined for not submitting the report. Finally, after 2 years, the NGT dismissed the case last year, ordering status quo in GO 111 areas and submission of report within six months
As per the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) guidelines, water is fit for drinking if the Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) is 2mg/L or less, Dissolved Oxygen (DO) is 6mg/L, the pH is between 6.5 and 8.5, and the total coliforms in MPN/100ml is 50 or less.