The revenge of the lakes in Hyderabad

Over the previous week, floods in Hyderabad have killed 33 folks and destroyed property. Swathi Vadlamudi and Syed Mohammed report on how a burgeoning inhabitants and speedy infrastructural growth have put super strain on the water our bodies of the metropolis, lowering their space, amount and high quality

Mohammed Abdul Quddus Qureshi’s physique was discovered at the Nagole sewage therapy plant alongside the Musi river, 13 km from his dwelling in Alinagar, at the same time as the steady downpour in Hyderabad continued. His decaying physique had floated throughout three police commissionerate jurisdictions earlier than being fished out. He was laid to relaxation in a cemetery in Chanchalguda, a neighbourhood in the Old City, close to the contemporary graves of 4 of his members of the family. They had been additionally swept away by the waters of the overflowing Palle Cheruvu lake, half of the Umda Sagar lake basin. Of the 9 members of the household who had been swept away in the deluge of October 13, just one, Mohammed Abdul Taher Qureshi, survived; three stay lacking. The household’s loss accounts for a piece of the 33 deaths recorded in Hyderabad.

Taher Qureshi was attempting to maneuver the eight members of the single-storey home throughout the rising waters to security in his brother’s three-storey constructing. But the torrent was so robust that it was as if the chabutra, on which they had been standing, dissolved in it like salt.

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“I heard a wall collapse and in no time, water came in with full force onto the road and consumed the ground floor of the building. I buried two grandchildren and two daughters-in-law. My brother’s body, which was found in Nagole, had decomposed. The bodies of three others have still not been found,” says Abdul, his voice quivering.

A brief distance from Alinagar, alongside National Highway 44, the floodwater from the Appa Cheruvu lake shut by, devoured siblings Tanima and Amer, and a cousin, Taher. Their our bodies had been discovered a day later. The body of Ayaan, an eight-year-old boy, was also retrieved. The household of 4 together with their cousin had been at dwelling when the water swirled over the wall, sweeping away the home and its inhabitants.

In a separate incident, additionally on NH 44, Moaawia Youssef, a Sudanese pupil, who was on his method to the airport alongside together with his cab driver, was final seen on October 14. While the cab driver was finally traced, the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport Police confirmed that the National Disaster Response Force groups have so far been unsuccessful in tracing the pupil.

Also learn | How lake encroachments and official inaction led to floods in Hyderabad

Unprecedented flooding

The downpour had extra devastation in retailer, and the restive Gurram Cheruvu lake, additionally half of the Umda Sagar lake basin, served as its vassal. On October 18, its bund that serves as a highway connecting Barkas (a corruption of the phrase ‘barracks’) to Balapur succumbed to water strain. What adopted was an unprecedented flooding of neighbourhoods south of the bund.

Ravi, a caretaker of a dairy farm, recollects the roar with which the water broke the bund. “Around 1 a.m., it rose up to 12 feet, broke our walls and took away cash and furniture. I rushed to save my mother. It is a miracle that we — our four buffaloes, 15 sheep and four horses — are safe. The water then went towards Hafiz Baba Nagar,” he says.

Editorial | Dealing with a deluge: On Hyderabad floods

The scenes from Hafiz Baba Nagar are telling of the loss and devastation. Dozens listed here are left with nothing however the damp garments on their backs. “The water smashed the wall of my house, and portions of the roof collapsed. The washing machine, fridge, and our clothes were all swept away. I will have to rebuild my life from scratch,” says Mohammed Salman, an optical fibre cable trencher, and the proprietor of a house in B Block.

On October 14, after night-long rain, the every day rainfall recorded at the climate monitoring station of the India Meteorological Department at Begumpet was 19.2 cm. It was the second highest in the recorded history of rainfall in a single day at this station since 1891. The water drowned the roads and inundated houses value crores of rupees in upmarket localities resembling Manikonda, Gachibowli, Rajendranagar and Madhapur on the western half of the metropolis, the hub of the IT business.

On the different hand, information from the automated climate stations, put in by the Telangana State Development Planning Society, confirmed the highest for the day at 33 cm, recorded at the Singapore Township in Pocharam, in the japanese half of the metropolis. Per week later, the Irrigation Department Principal Secretary, Rajat Kumar, famous that 185 lakes overflowed on account of the rains. Of these, Appa Cheruvu, Palle Cheruvu and Gurram Cheruvu had been described as people who breached.

The sisterhood of lakes

In Telangana’s pure terrain, lakes exist in sororities. The State’s undulating topography allowed the existence of a reported one lakh chain-linked lakes/ponds, regionally generally known as Kuntas and Cheruvus, in Hyderabad and its peripheries in the pre-independence period. Surplus water from every lake flowed right down to the subsequent water physique in the basin, finishing a sequence hyperlink. The system labored nicely for the area in the Deccan Plateau the place canal irrigation was not an possibility. Owing to the linkages, flooding may very well be averted throughout monsoons, and there could be sufficient water impounded for summer time crops. The rulers recognised this reality, and thru their diktats, maintained the lakes’ well being. They additionally added new lakes, constructed robust bunds and drains to manage the flows, and maintained and developed them.

The revenge of the lakes in Hyderabad


After independence, the lakes got here below the centralised command of the Irrigation Department, alienating the customers from their water our bodies. Since the 1970s, the pace of urbanisation has picked up, substituting the conventional worth of subsistence positioned on the land with that of actual property. As the metropolis unfold, conventional vocations resembling agriculture and fishing vanished. Concrete jungles took over inside no time.

Also learn | A choked Gurram Cheruvu leaves Hyderabad’s Old City flooded

A novel side of the Asafjahi rule was its grant of titles to farmers in the lake beds in order that when water receded in summer time, the alluvial soil supplied them bounty crop. No exercise other than farming was allowed on the lake mattress.

With urbanisation quick catching up, and infrastructure creation not apace with it, lakes turned the useful receptacles of the metropolis’s sewage. Builders laid sewage traces as much as the nearest lake, or related them to the storm water drain community wherever it existed. The capital area is so replete with such interconnections between sewage traces and storm water drains that ‘dry flows’ is a standardised time period for sewage circulate into drains throughout the dry season. As a fallout, eutrophication quickly set into the lakes, making the lakes wealthy with weed and poor in water-holding capability and biodiversity. The fish died. The water turned unfit for any sort of consumption. Slowly, however certainly, the lake shrunk in space, amount and high quality.

Tonnes of earth being poured on the bund of the Palle Cheruvu Lake which, officials said, had breached and flooded areas including Alinagar.

Tonnes of earth being poured on the bund of the Palle Cheruvu Lake which, officers stated, had breached and flooded areas together with Alinagar.  
| Photo Credit: G. Ramakrishna


Farmers and their descendants who had titles inside the lake beds bought the uncovered land. Wherever the lakes became veritable sewage repositories, the city poor settled in these areas. And the place the waters had been nonetheless pristine sufficient to proffer a ‘lake view’, the plots had been bought at premium charges. Gigantic infrastructure growth tasks taken up by the successive governments, together with the Outer Ring Road, Hyderabad Metro Rail, and the Strategic Road Development Plan, to call a couple of, tampered with the topography of the capital area and altered the hydrology of the lake basins. The position of land sharks, who many a time are the political leaders themselves, can’t be understated, in filling the foreshore areas of the lake mattress with particles and elevating constructions inside the full tank degree.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to state that there’s not one lake in the limits of Greater Hyderabad which has been exempted from this destiny, together with the famed Hussain Sagar lake. The standing of the lakes in the municipalities/firms surrounding the State capital is worse.

Shrinking water our bodies

From one lakh, the water our bodies have drastically come right down to 185 inside the Greater Hyderabad capital area, and to three,132 inside the limits of the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) as enumerated by its Lake Protection Committee until date. Of the 185 lakes in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), for 75, the surplus weirs and programs are fully closed.

Also learn | Lake encroachments led to flooding

According to a report on the disappearing water our bodies of Hyderabad, by the Society for Participatory Development, submitted to the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, in 2017, the metropolis had lost 3,245 hectares of water bodies in the earlier 12 years.

The Lake Protection Committee was constituted in 2010 upon the High Court’s instructions responding to a PIL. It is headed by the HMDA Commissioner, and has members from departments resembling GHMC, the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board, Irrigation, Panchayat Raj, Environment and Forests, and 5 district administrations below the HMDA’s purview. The Committee had been inept in phrases of enforcement. It has restricted itself to counting lakes alone. It has didn’t fulfil its mandate of figuring out lakes, demarcating boundaries and buffer zones for them, fencing them with FTL (Full Tank Level) stones, and preserving them by stopping and eradicating encroachments. Of the 3,132 water our bodies, all formalities have been accomplished with respect to solely 224. This quantity has remained unchanged for the previous one 12 months. Even the place the FTL boundaries are notified, encroachments inside have remained untouched, owing to a number of sociopolitical dynamics.

The decay of Gurram Cheruvu

Palle Cheruvu and Gurram Cheruvu are half of the Umda Sagar lake’s watershed space as per the Survey of India’s topology sheets. Gurram Cheruvu receives its inflows from Pedda Cheruvu of the identical basin, which in flip is downstream of the Burhan Khan lake. There is yet another unnotified water physique, the Shukur lake, in the identical line, emptying into Gurram Cheruvu.

The Burhan Khan lake, which is uppermost in the hydrological chain, is a large water physique with an FTL of 132 acres, of which 130 acres had been intact until 2013 when it was surveyed. The authorities, nevertheless, had given plots for a housing colony for the poor in the lake mattress, whereas on the different facet got here up a gated group, partially encroaching on the lake. A temple is now seen below development in the foreshore space close to the weir, dumped closely with particles. During the latest floods, the lake started to submerge the colony of the poor.

While the Pedda Cheruvu and Shukur Sagar lake are comparatively unhindered, rampant development on the surplus course of each have choked the inlet of the Gurram Cheruvu. This has inundated colonies at the lake’s mouth when a deluge of inflows arrived from upstream resulting from copious rains.

Also learn | Lakes in GHMC’s East Zone swell

On the northern edge, the Gurram Cheruvu’s primary sluice was buried below heavy encroachment inspired by native leaders and their henchmen. Truckloads of particles had been allegedly dumped into the lake and levelled utilizing heavy equipment, about which a police grievance had already been lodged by the Tehsildar in the Chandrayangutta Police Station, however to no avail. When the lake brimmed after 20 years, officers had been caught in a cleft stick, as Hafiz Baba Nagar residents settled downstream demanded diversion of the water. Meanwhile, the lake’s backwater had drowned the Barkas locality neck deep.

Instead of clearing the encroachment, and opening the sluice, officers tried to widen the weir portion, weakening the bund. It breached at midnight, and all hell broke free.

The decay of this lake started no more than 20 years in the past. “Our uncle had agriculture under the lake. We grew paddy and vegetables, and he would distribute the crop after storing some for our needs. When the bullocks got sick, we the cousins would carry the plough along in the field,” recollects Aslam Bin Haji Al Baghdadi, 25, a resident of the space. Now, there isn’t a farming or fishing right here. The water is stuffed with water hyacinth weed.

A sewage receptacle

Water hyacinth defines the different lake of doom, the Palle Cheruvu, too. This lake is privately owned, similar to its supply lake, the Umda Sagar. Umda Sagar receives its inflows from Jalapalli Lake of the identical basin. Reports about encroachments into the Jalapalli Lake appeared in the media, whereas the HMDA is but to inform the centuries-old tank.

Also learn | Flood-hit people pour out their woes to Central team

Palle Cheruvu tells the story of how a water physique surrounded by burgeoning residential colonies has change into a sewage receptacle. When Umda Sagar upstream began overflowing, the surplus water entered Palle Cheruvu, which had just one small drain, two ft vast. While the Irrigation Department maintains that the lake had breached, native folks say that the lake topped over the bund and gushed on to the highway and the surrounding areas on the night time when Qureshi misplaced eight members of his household. Post the tragedy, irrigation officers had been seen dumping tonnes of earth on the bund in order to boost its peak.

“The outflow channel of Palle Cheruvu meets the surplus channels of two more lakes, the Salkam Cheruvu and the Surram Cheruvu, from the same basin. Together with the Gurram Cheruvu outflow, it becomes a massive stream roaring towards the Musi River during floods. But the channel is now occupied by structures, severely restricting the flow,” says Lubna Sarwat from Save Our Urban Lakes.

Gurram Cheruvu and Palle Cheruvu are each in the HMDA’s listing of notified lakes. In the Umda Sagar basin, 14 of the 28 lakes had completely disappeared between 1978 and 2017, whereas three had been in the course of of disappearing, as per the research report submitted to IISc, Bengaluru. The space below water unfold had diminished from 236 hectares to 134 acres.

A 2017 analysis paper on distant sensing research by ICRISAT and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala data the shrinkage of water our bodies in the metropolis and its surrounding areas over 16 years. In 2005, lakes recorded a complete acreage of 12,535 ha. In 2016, this diminished to 2,283 ha. This signifies that all the floodwater that might in any other case have been impounded in these lakes, enriching the floor water, quenching thirst and feeding biodiversity of the basin is now let berserk both into the surrounding lakes, or into low-lying areas, inundating houses and killing the residents.

Also learn | Bandlaguda Jagir residents living on the edge

A protracted-term motion plan wanted

But the authorities are nonetheless to study their classes. There is not any single authority coping with the lakes in the metropolis. GHMC has a separate wing for lakes, and takes its personal choices about their growth. One measure receiving criticism is the laying of strolling tracks round the water our bodies, by filling the boundary paths. The company has tried engineering options for inundation, resembling establishing box-type RCC storm water drains from areas of flooding as much as the nearest lake, however this has given rise to a different drawback by impounding extra water than the lake can maintain.

Two research — one by Kirloskar Consultancy in 2002 for the erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad and the different by the Voyants Consultancy in 2008 for GHMC — beneficial widening and enhancing storm water drains, and diverting sewage.

The Voyants’ Master Plan divided the total GHMC space into 16 hydraulic zones and recognized 173 main drains, 391-km lengthy, which wanted decongestion and widening instantly. Its implementation necessitates the acquisition of 28,800 properties encroaching on the drains, an insurmountable job. Only about 35 km of the drains may very well be cleared until 2016 when the metropolis skilled inundation but once more in a number of areas, forcing the authorities to think about the proposals significantly.

Also learn | Sailors turned saviours on Hyderabad’s night of deluge

Ananth Maringanti, an environmentalist from Hyderabad Urban Labs, says, “It is time to seriously consider long-term definitive action, rather than resorting to drastic measures. The city has pushed its most deprived to the edges of the water bodies, and the socioeconomic dimensions involved in displacing them cannot be ignored.”

The devastation of the previous few weeks pressured the authorities to announce a ₹550 crore aid package deal. On October 19, Telangana Chief Minister Okay. Chandrashekar Rao stated that ₹1 lakh could be given to these whose homes had been absolutely broken. Owners of partially broken homes could be given ₹50,000. Another ₹10,000 could be given to households in low-lying areas who had been hit laborious by the flood.

Upstream of the Gurram Cheruvu bund, the place Sayeed Colony, Ali Gulshan Colony and Hamshan Colony remained flooded for a number of days, Ali Bin Abdallah claims that calls made to political leaders remained unanswered. Till October 20, he alleged, neither senior officers of the GHMC nor of the income division arrived to evaluate losses.

Also learn | Where is the rainwater supposed to go?

It was voluntary organisations that started to plug the perceived yawning hole in aid work. NGOs rescued victims and offered them with speedy aid in the type of meals and clothes. WhatsApp teams and locations of worship was aid conflict rooms. GPS coordinates of the place important provides had been wanted the most had been posted, with college students and professionals working at the grassroots delivering them to these in want.“Providing relief began soon after rains hit the city and was crucial in plugging some gaps. To avoid duplication of work, a few organisations have come together to chalk out a strategy,” says activist S.Q. Masood.

Caught in a tough scenario, the State authorities is blaming the issues on the unprecedented rainfall in a single day. As per a research by the division of Civil Engineering, BITS Pilani, Hyderabad Campus, excessive every day rainfall in the metropolis can be a recurring phenomenon in future too. The research has postulated that in 2040, 2045, 2068, 2088 and 2098, the metropolis could expertise intense rainfall in a day ranging between 27 cm and 69 cm. How the metropolis prepares to mitigate the potential harm that it’ll carry is to be seen.

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