ANDHRA PRADESH

Potential for disaster is greater

V. Geetanath

HYDERABAD: If the initial delight caused by Saturday's rain soon gave way to apprehensions among citizens of the twin cities, it is because of the scary experiences they had during the August 2000 deluge that inundated several areas and left many homeless.

Though the extent of rain is way below the 24 cm in 24 hours as it happened five years ago, the city is in for a potential natural disaster whenever such a huge downpour recurs.

If encroachments and habitations along the Hussainsagar open surplus drains (`nalas') linking to the Musi caused floods then, the situation is no different and, in fact, is much worse now.

While the Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad (MCH) goes full steam ahead on the Musi beautification programme, it appears to have put on the rack the more critical work of widening and deepening open drains by removing encroachments and construction of retaining walls.

Kirloskar report

The Kirloskar report, which suggested these steps to prevent floods, is gathering dust, so are estimates and plans made to ensure free flow of floodwater into open drains. "The current rain is not that alarming but we cannot afford to take chances. In case of a big rain it is sure to cause more damage as encroachments have only increased," admits a senior MCH official.

An intricate network of open drains up to 170 kilometres of length criss-cross the city. Over the years, rapid construction activity has spread towards these drains by big-time realtors, slums encroaching either side obstructing the water flow.

Encroachments listed

The MCH authorities, looking the other way when drains were being reduced in size, had to face flak after the deluge. Having woken up to the fact that a bigger danger was in the offing if freeway was not provided to floodwater, it appointed Kirloskar Consultants to study the issue.

Its report clearly mentioned that habitations near open drains should be shifted; encroachments removed and drains widened and deepened. It listed more than 1,400 encroachments to be taken out immediately and identified drains of Balkapur, Begumpet, Kishanbagh and few others as very problematic.

The MCH was to acquire 11 hectares of land for widening drains. "At most places, drain width is about 16 meters when it has to be anywhere between 40 meters and 48 meters," explains an official. Work was estimated to cost about Rs. 287 crores four years ago which has escalated to double the amount.

Save for construction of retaining walls at some places and clearing of debris, nothing much was done including rehabilitation.

Only recently administrative sanction was obtained to construct gates near Hotel Viceroy to help monitor flood flow.

"During heavy rain, 40,000 cusecs of water should be released from Hussainsagar into open drains but their capacity is only 16,000 cusecs of water.

Unless gates are fixed immediately and retaining walls built, a big rain could engulf the city," fear officials.

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