Will Necklace Road wear a desolate look this summer as People’s Plaza remains cordoned off to serve as a dumping site for slush

Tall blue plastic sheets sprung up all around People’s Plaza and took kite fliers by surprise during Sankranti. Days later, passersby learnt that the vast expanse of open ground, also a favourite spot to organise cultural events and trade fairs, was no longer going to be accessible. People’s Plaza, along with a portion of Sanjeevaiah Park, will serve as a dumping site for sediments collected from dredging carried out in the Balkapur and Banjara nalas.

“People’s Plaza being cordoned off is talked about more because of its visibility. A portion of Sanjeevaiah Park, too, is being used for deposition of non-toxic slush collected from the Picket nala. We required a temporary site where the slush can be allowed to dry before transportation,” says R.P. Khajuria, member environment, Buddha Purnima Project.

Dredging is being done as part of cleaning up of Hussain Sagar by Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) in collaboration with JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency). “This might be a dirty site temporarily but is inevitable as part of the cleaning up process,” says Khajuria.

Each year, at least 25 organisers hire the two-acre People’s Plaza ground for exhibitions and cultural activities that range from a day to a week to a month at Rs. 50,000 per day. The last few summers saw Maha Utsav Mela set up amusement rides, shopping and food stalls in the area. Now, event organisers are looking at alternate venues. This year, the annual Horticulture Expo will begin on February 13 at Nizam College grounds.

The organiser of Maha Utsav Mela, Mirza Rafiq Baig, says he hasn’t found an alternate venue to People’s Plaza. “This place is easily accessible and visible even from NTR Gardens, thus helping to create a buzz. The large open area is ideal to put up stalls and amusement rides,” he says.

The area opposite PV Narasimha Rao ghat, which was used by L&T to display the metro rail coach in October 2013, is now being promoted as an alternate exhibition venue. “But permissions can be given taking into consideration the nature of the event. It would be inappropriate if a noisy amusement fair is organised near PV ghat.

There’s also a dearth of parking space. If organisers can have parking in the area, like they did while displaying the metro coach, we have no objection,” says Rajender Reddy, officer on special duty, Buddha Purnima Project, who sees this closure of People’s Plaza as an unavoidable inconvenience in the wake of a Rs.300 crore plus project of cleaning taken up by HMDA and JICA.

At the same time, he cites the case of exhibitors preferring the vicinity of People’s Plaza for its visibility. “In such cases, we are open to giving a portion of the parking area opposite People’s Plaza for organisers,” adds Reddy.

People’s Plaza is likely to be out of bounds at least till June. “We are trying to complete the work before monsoon sets in,” says Khajuria.

Your Puja material here

Srinivas begins his day around 9.30 a.m. at the JICA-HMDA booth on Necklace Road, near Sanjeevaiah Park, and clocks in 10 hours on a typical working day. The booth is among the four set up in June 2013 and serves as a collection centre for puja material. “Each day, at least 20 people come to hand over flowers, rice grains and other puja material that needs to be immersed in the lake. The numbers go up a day after festive occasions or Friday/Saturday pujas in temples,” says Srinivas. These booths have helped bring down instances of people dumping waste without segregation into the lake.

Khajuria agrees there’s more work to be done. “Despite efforts, there are times when people don’t make the effort to come to these booths and instead throw flowers and grains wrapped in polythene bags into the lake. At the moment, we are focusing on raising awareness by highlighting the issue on radio, putting up boards and providing dustbins all around Tank Bund. We are yet to begin imposing a fine for littering,” he says.