“Weather phenomena are cyclic by nature. There is a certain periodicity to weather patterns. That’s why Hyderabad has seen both spells of drought as well as heavy rains — like the one we are experiencing right now —return from time to time,” explains Dr K Nagaratna, scientist at the city’s Meteorological Department. While history has clearly been repeating itself, Hyderabad just doesn’t learn any lessons from it, opine experts, even as they point out what ails our city so much that we crumble with rain.
We don’t have statesmen anymore, we only have politicians
Hyderabad of the early 1900s was wiser than the Hyderabad of today. In 1908, devastation caused by a cloud burst and the flooding of Musi claimed 15,000 lives and rendered 80,000 homeless. But there were amends made after that. Sir Visvesvaraya was commissioned to conduct a study and suggest measures to manage the impact of floods on the city. That’s how two reservoirs — Osmansagar and Himayatsagar — came up to act as flood control centres. A modern system of drainage was also built.
In August 2000, the rains wreaked havoc again. The city recorded a total of 469 mm rain, leading to one of the worst floods we’ve seen since 1908. As many as 90 residential areas in the city were under water. Of course, committees were formed, reports were submitted and review meetings were held. But obviously nothing useful seems to have come of those meetings, because it’s September 2016, our city is still flooding. Why? I believe that we just don’t have far-sighted and efficient statesmen anymore; we only have politicians.
— Mohd Safiullah, Deccan Heritage Trust
We built a whole new city on top of an agrarian imprint and forgot all about it
We need to understand that Hyderabad is a system of catchments. The western edge is in the Godavari River basin (from Kukatpally, Ramchandrapuram, to Gachibowli). To the east, it’s in the Krishna River basin. Also, Hyderabad is in the Deccan region, which has a chaotic drainage pattern — water here does not flow in a single direction as the slope is in multiple directions. These tanks served agrarian purposes and the areas surrounding them were ‘protected local catchment areas’. In the last 40 years, we’ve gone and built a complete city on top of this agrarian imprint. We’ve built roads, which are rigid boundaries, around the ‘fluid’ water bodies, without any buffer areas. Our Necklace Road is a spectacular example of that. Both in the command area and in the foreshore of tanks, we have developed real estate. Having said that, there are a lot of things that can still be done to reverse the effects. We must begin to take stock of the entire drainage system, not just the nalas. We must see the whole city as a catchment area and begin to clear critical areas of encroachments. It sounds like a lot but it is actually only a matter of intelligent readjustment and it can be done at a low cost. For all this to be implemented, we need an executive and ‘ecological’ body like a “Lakes and Parks Authority”, which can draw upon and coordinate the relevant parts of the functions at HMDA, GHMC and departments like revenue, irrigation, roads and buildings.
— Anant Maringanti, Urban geographer and director of Hyderabad Urban Labs
A big lie that everyone has bought into is that it doesn’t rain so much in Hyderabad, but history tells us otherwise
While the overall slope of all the localities in Hyderabad remains more or less the same, almost all the nalas, storm drains, culverts are gone — either land-filled and built over or simply filled with garbage, detritus and forgotten. So, the water which is used to flowing in a particular way has no choice any more. Where will it go? Take Alwal for instance. It’s naturally a low-lying area and most of the ‘development’ has come up around small ponds or lakes and their bunds. There must have been 15-20 of these lakes and ponds at one time. Take places close to Alwal, like Lothakunta and Tadbund — their very names are indicative of their natural history. But is there any kunta (pond) near Lothakunta nowadays? Is there any ‘bund’ near Tadbund? May be just some remnants.
There has been massive urbanisation all over Alwal and its surrounding areas in the last three-four years. More and more of the land gets developed into colonies, gated communities, massive apartment blocks or ‘independent houses’ that are cheek by jowl. So 16 years after the 2000 floods, we are not anywhere close to reducing risks. Because everyone has bought into the big lie that it ‘never really rains in Hyderabad’. But just a perfunctory understanding of natural history tells us otherwise!
— Anand Vishwanadha, bioconservationist, professional wildlife and bird photographer
We have been feeding our lakes a diet of garbage, sewage and making them sick
One of our biggest failures is waste management. You see, every water body has a holding capacity. But over the years, with all the industrial waste and sewage being dumped into the lakes, the waste accumulated and has now affected the holding capacity of the lakes, vertically. So, the original ‘full tank limit’ of our waterbodies /lakes doesn’t hold good anymore. Off the record, officials will also admit that we should reduce the FTL by half, since the rest is filled with silt. That’s not all. Even the feeder channels, which used to bring storm water to the lakes, have been reduced to drainage pipes which dump garbage, chemical waste and sewage water into them. We caused this! Sadly, even if some people are doing their bit, the government is undoing all the good. Take for instance the High Court order passed in January 2016 on segregation of dry and wet waste. You might be doing it at your home, but they are still collecting all waste together and dumping them together. There are laws like Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000, and The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, in place. But the question is, who is executing them? Hopefully, we’ll act before our water bodies die and we drown!
— Dr Lubna Sarwath, Co-Convener, Save Our Urban Lakes
The findings of Kirloskar committee after the floods of 2000
–> Over 2,700 illegal encroachments were found on city nalas, of which 1,400 need to be removed.
–> Nalas to be widened to 60 feet at some points and 40-48 feet at others to accommodate higher flows
–> The drainage system in the twin cities is inadequate; it is designed only for 12 mm rain per hour.
–> Abids, Panjagutta, Trimulgherry, Saifabad, Kacheguda, Begumpet, Charminar, Vanasthalipuram, Uppal, Kukatpally and Madhapur were marked as susceptible to severe water-logging.