Hyderabad lakes turning cesspools

Property disputes present several hurdles for removal of encroachments in the vicinity of water bodies

September 30, 2019 11:54 pm | Updated October 01, 2019 10:23 am IST - HYDERABAD

Waste dumped near Miralam Tank in Old City.

Waste dumped near Miralam Tank in Old City.

The recent flooding of roads and several residential colonies in low-lying areas has walked people through the city’s drainage and sewerage management system that simply cannot cope in the event of a cloudburst for consecutive days.

Hyderabad has a fair number of storm water drains to take the rainwater to hundreds of lakes spread across the city and the Musi river. But they have ceased to be storm water drains for long as they mostly ferry sewage and garbage that is recklessly dumped by the households. Over the years, this has taken a toll on the water bodies. The lakes that should ideally serve as rain water retention bodies have themselves turned into cesspools.

Citizens turn impatient and point an accusatory finger at the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) or the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB) for the sorry state of civic affairs, but they themselves are not above board as they dump domestic waste and release untreated sewage into nearby water bodies instead of the main sewer lines.

Waking up to the necessity of protecting the lakes from the callously and sometimes clandestinely released garbage and sewage, a massive exercise was taken up between 2012 and 2014 by the government. A lake protection committee headed by Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) official with officers of the GHMC Planning Wing, Irrigation Department and District Collectors as members was formed. The GHMC had notified 187 lakes, while the Irrigation Department put the number of lakes and water bodies in the city at over 200, says Harichandana Dasari, Commissioner, West Zone, GHMC.

Speaking to The Hindu , she assures that the GHMC has been on the job. Rejuvenation of 19 lakes with an estimated cost of ₹230 crore has been taken up. The main task would be to provide for sewerage treatment and the work has already begun. Taj Banjara lake is one among them and a Bio-STP would be finalised for it shortly. Ten other lakes are being restored under the CSR scheme. The Green Climate Fund (GCF), an international NGO, is funding another 11 lakes through the EPTRI. But property disputes have presented several hurdles for the removal of encroachments in the vicinity of the water bodies. There are close to 20,000 encroachments into 19 lakes, according to official figures.

There are as many as 142 cases pending in the High Court for years with regard to 25 lakes. People demand compensation though they do not have the ownership rights and have been living in the government leased land. Yet, the GHMC decided to give Transfer of Development Right in lieu of the area relinquished by the occupant/owner of the land for an extra built up area for her/himself or transfer it to another for an agreed sum of money. “We have made it mandatory that all the buildings should have silt chambers for the domestic sewage to pass through before it is let out into the sewer line. Our experience is that many resident welfare associations tend to neglect this over a period of time to save on cost incurred on treating sewage not realising the health hazards for the entire community,” says Ms. Harichandana.

The HMWSSB, for its part, had proposed to construct STPs for all the 187 lakes at an estimated cost of ₹4,500 crore. At present, the existing STPs only to treat 870 MLD of sewage, while the city needs treatment capacity of 2,500 MLD more. The capacity of Chandanagar STP is being increased and for Ameenpur lake, an STP is proposed, while plans have been made to upgrade Khajaguda and Durgam Cheruvu STPs. But many point out that decentralised STPs across the city would be a better idea to treat the sewage rather than carrying the untreated sewage all the way to few big capacity STPs.

The GHMC is negotiating with private property owners to build a protective bund around the lake, which itself acts as social fencing besides increasing the water retention capacity of the lake. Meanwhile, cleaning up of lakes that have become highly polluted has been proving to be a challenge. Deploying workers to clean up these water bodies are proving to be a health hazard and in few cases, it even turned fatal for some workers. “We are pressing drones into service for lake clean up and anti-larvae operations on a pilot basis. It will have to be formalised. The corporation is also procuring floating trash collectors for the lakes,” says Ms. Harichandana.

But the Zonal Commissioner says sensitisation of public and builders is more important to stop lake pollution. That is where the corporation is relying on organisations like the Society for Advancement of Human Endeavour (SAHE) to educate and motivate communities to invest on proper sewerage connection and segregate wet and dry waste and make it mandatory to recycle dry waste and use wet waste for compost-making. This would drastically reduce the amount of garbage generated from each household, she says.

An NGO, United Way, is working on Khajaguda lake near Biodiversity Park and taking up the bund work in the buffer zone. The bunds have inlet and outlet channels. Once the plastic usage is reduced, garbage dumping would be curbed and clogging of drains would reduce, she hopes.

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