HYDERABAD: Could nature alone be blamed for the misery and destruction witnessed as rain pummelled Hyderabad?
Urban flooding is not a new phenomenon in Hyderabad as the city has experienced it earlier in 2000, 2008, 2016 and 2017 — every time resulting in deaths of at least two dozen people and affecting nearly two lakh.
The issue of encroachment of lake beds, areas along the Musi river and storm-water drains not only remain but also continue to proliferate, despite lofty promises by successive governments that they would be removed.
There is no dearth of reports or studies that have been taken up over the years to identify problems or suggest solutions. The Kirloskar Committee report, which was drafted after the floods in 2000, had identified 13,500 illegal constructions and the recent Voyants Consultancy report had identified 28,000 encroachments.
The GHMC and NDMA had also taken up the Urban Flooding Impact Assessment study for the Hussainsagar catchment area.
The Telangana government, too, in its own words pointed out in a report that, “Clogged up drains, unauthorised encroachments of the Musi riverbed and development along riverbanks that block natural drains further reduce the storm water drainage capacity of urban areas”.
But no action was taken. For example, the surroundings of LB Nagar, including Saroornagar and Gudimalkapur, have experienced the wrath of flooding more than once in the past month whenever it rained heavily. A main reason for this is the encroachment of storm-water drains, which causes the Saroornagar lake to overflow.
Same is the case with Nizampet, Kukatpally and areas around Toli Chowki which are prone to flooding in case of a downpour. In Tellapur, a couple of hundred families were affected in the SSPDL Colony as the area was flooded with waist-deep water on Tuesday night. Thakur Rajkumar Singh, who has filed a case in the National Green Tribunal on the encroachment of a lake and nalas in the area, violation of GO 111 and encroachments in Ameenpur, said, “The NGT expert committee, in its report, has said this venture encroached a floodwater nala, Ganganivani Vadaka, leading to Medla Cheruvu in Tellapur. Further down, another venture belonging to family of a Telangana government bureaucrat has completely closed a floodwater nala. Who is to be blamed?”
Lubna Sarwath, a well-known lake protection activist from Hyderabad, said, “People are being evacuated but encroachment has not stopped. Musi waters are breaching the banks not because the river is in spate but because it is cramped with encroachments. We always told the government to restore the area of water bodies..”
A University of Hyderabad study published this year reported that 20-25 per cent rainfall in the recent heavy rainfall in South India can be attributed to the increased urbanisation in the last decade.