A sea of graves is all set to swallow up one of the last surviving pond beds in Banjara Hills. If nothing is done to surcease the hectic construction activity currently on at the small green-patched pond bed, residents in the low-lying areas of Banjara Hills Road No.5, IAS Drivers Colony and Devarkonda Basti abutting the water body could well be left at the mercy of a heavy downpour.
Nestled in the Panjagutta cemetery is the small pond bed, remnant of the once 14-acre ‘Enugulakunta’ lake where elephants ambled to have a leisurely bath in the days of yore. With the progression of time, the lake gave way to what is now Jalagam Vengalrao Park, leaving only the pond behind, a saviour for surrounding residents during monsoon.
The problem began with the expansion of Banjara Hills Road No.3, for which part of the cemetery’s land was forfeited by the Panjagutta Hindu Smashana Vatika Parirakshana Committee (PHSVPC), custodians of the cemetery.
To compensate for the loss of land in a prime area, the three-acre pond bed was made a victim. A decision to this effect was taken in July 2008 with the intervention of the then Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.
“This is the last water body in the Banjara Hills region. Overflows from KBR Park and areas downstream would collect here. Once this is gone, floods will create havoc in the low-lying areas,” said B.V. Subba Rao, president of Centre for Resource Education.
Residents recall with shudder the fateful day of August 23, 2000, when torrential rainfall inundated surrounding areas because the natural flow of the water was blocked. “Rain water from the upper reaches of Banjara Hills like Road Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 gets collected in the pond whenever there are heavy rains. The pond was a safety net against flooding of the low-lying areas en route,” said a resident.
Local also claim that the storm water drains do not have adequate capacity to handle the rainwater inflows. “The government is violating its own policies and Acts.
The proposed graveyard is in violation of Andhra Pradesh State Water Policy and Water, Land and Tree Act (WALTA),” points out Jasveen Jairath, an expert on water management.
“Reclaiming the land is highly objectionable. Why can’t the government provide space for a graveyard on the outskirts,” said Mr. Rao.