ANDHRA PRADESH

Minister orders clean-up of lake canals* Koneru non-committal on removing encroachments

HYDERABAD, AUG. 1. The Municipal Administration Minister, Koneru Ranga Rao, has directed the Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad to immediately take up cleaning of Hussainsagar canals, including desilting, but is non-committal on removing encroachments that have proliferated across them over the years.

Talking to newsmen after inspecting the canal encroachments at Ashoknagar, on Sunday Mr. Rao said the Government would study the existing plans for improving the flow of water and take a decision. Along with the Rs. 350 crores provided by the Centre for the Musi clean-up, the Government would spend an additional Rs. 150 crores to Rs. 200 crores for repairs, strengthening bunds and constructing bridges.

Legal blocks

Demolishing encroachments was fraught with problems and the affected parties could also take to the legal route complicating matters, he observed.

However, the MCH has the responsibility to protect the available land and prevent further encroachments, he accepted and promised to take "action wherever necessary."

To a suggestion by the Deputy Mayor, Subash Chanderji, to file a caveat in the High Court to prevent further illegal occupation of canals, the Principal Secretary, Municipal Administration and Urban Development, S.R. Rao, said a caveat could be filed only against persons. He accepted the administration's failure in not being able to prevent encroachments.

Mr. Ranga Rao was not convinced by the explanation given by the Superintendent Engineer (Irrigation), Seshagiri Rao that widening the canals was imperative for allowing floodwater to flow through.

"The canals have a capacity of only 12,000 cusecs while it should be 40,000 cusecs," the official said, adding that deepening cannot be done, as it would affect the flow into the Musi River across gravity.

Floodwater drainage

The in-charge MCH Commissioner, M.V. Satyanarayana, told the Minister that the Kirloskar study which went into canals' improvement after the August 2000 floods had pointed out that only one-third of floodwater was flowing freely and the rest was overflowing. The study estimated it would cost Rs. 267 crores to widen and deepen the canals of which 40 of the 64 acres was encroached upon.

Local residents complained to the Minister about traffic congestion and bad road conditions in Himayatnagar and Ashoknagar areas.

Mr. Ranga Rao said he would inspect slums in the next couple of days and reiterated his Government's commitment to spend 40 per cent of municipal funds on slum development. Senior MCH officials -- E. Sridhar and G. Malsur -- and water board officials were present.

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