Rains ravage Hyderabad: KCR and son need to turn their words into deeds
Excessive rainfall almost always makes people recall the old adage 'it's raining cats and dogs'. By that measure, it has rained dinosaurs in Hyderabad this monsoon.
Not since 1908 has the city received as much precipitation - according to Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, Hyderabad has seen 450% more rain than usual in September alone.
But every cloud, they say, has a silver lining. This year's mega rainfall actually brought two.
Last year, KCR had derided the electricity department and asked why the power went off every time it merely drizzled. But this time, despite the inundation of rain, power was available round the clock in most colonies.
Second, all the tanks, rivers and reservoirs in Telangana are filled to the brim - a rare sight indeed. The government is hopeful that this would lead to a bountiful crop for the next three years.
However, that's about it when it comes to good news.
Encroachment and regularisation
Rain and the resultant flooding have wreaked havoc among the denizens of India's second-biggest IT hub. The cause might be natural, but the problems are certainly man-made.
The city is flooded because open drains have been encroached upon. While there were 13,000-odd encroachments along the nullahs up to 2003, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation(GHMC) has identified 15,000-odd encroachments that have come up in the last 13 years, taking the total to 28,000.
KCR himself said that large parts of the drains and open spaces had been gobbled up, which led to the terrible state of affairs in this city. Though he cleverly desisted his urge to open up a political blame game, he said it would take a few years for him to right the wrongs of the Congress and the TDP governments of the erstwhile united Andhra Pradesh in the last six decades.
It would cost the State Rs 11,000 crore to take up drainage clearance work in the city.
More than 175 lakebeds have been encroached upon, and illegal constructions have come up over the years.
Building regularisation schemes implemented by successive governments have relaxed rules since 1992. This surely came as a shot in the arm for builders.
The government issued seven Government Orders between 1992 and 1998, and, emboldened by popular support for these illegal activities, it began enacting pieces of legislation and issuing ordinances to regularise illegal construction.
Act No.6 of 2003 was given assent by the Governor on 15 April 2003, extending the relief of regularisation to other municipal corporations in the state. Then came the GO Ms. 901/31.12.2007, giving civic authorities a bulldozing right to nullify the deviations and declare them as 'regular'.
Even after the formation of Telangana, the state government went about issuing a GO, Ms No. 151/2.11.2015, for illegal layout regularisation, and 152/2.11.2015 for regularising the illegal construction.
However, the issue went to the High Court, and the court asked the government to come up with revised regularisation rules.
Water, water everywhere
These relaxations have had a cascading effect. Lung spaces, which were to be left on all sides of individual houses and apartments, have gone for a toss.
The post-economic liberalisation era has done a lot of good for Hyderabad. But the bad it has inflicted is being felt now. The worst is still to come.
When IT companies began popping up in the city, politicians only gloated about it and bragged about their 'vision'. But their blurred vision now stands exposed in its ugliest form, because successive governments never cared for creating urban social infrastructure.
When Hyderabad was basking in the afterglow of development brought about because of the IT revolution, nature demonstrated its fury in 2000, forcing the government of the day to constitute a committee to study the reason for the clogged drains and flooded roads. The Kirloskar Committee identified 13,000 encroachments along the 390-km drains.
More than half of the drainage feeds into the Musi, making it the sewerage river. The Hussain Sagar Lake, located in the middle of the city, takes water from all sewage nullahs and industrial waste waters, forcing the officials to release the surplus - over and above the full tank level of 514 meters - water downstream, forcing those living along the course of the excess water to vacate and move to safer areas.
Only a little over 20% of storm water can be taken by the drains. The rest tests the natural capability of the city and the patience level of the people.
The problem of roads
Considering the distance of cost-effective residential localities like Nizampet, Miyapur, Malkajgiri, Secunderabad, Alwal, Dilsukhnagar, Vanasthanlipuram, BN Reddy Nagar, Karmanghat, and Uppal from the posh IT corridor, long commutes became inevitable. But public transport couldn't absorb the sheer size of the growth in population.
The prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Outer Ring Road, Rajiv Gandhi International airport and the PV Narasimha Rao Express Highway have all contributed to addressing these problems. But then, the core of the city has suffered never-ending repairs, maintenance and construction.
The city has a 9,100-km road network with multiple owners - the GHMC, the Roads and Buildings department, the National Highways Authority of India. None of these can interfere with the others' roads and make repairs or take up expansion.
A total of 178 km of arterial roads were severely damaged, and over 65,000 potholes were identified. Most of them were repaired, but 3,200 are yet to be covered. The total damaged road length is put at 1,800 km, according to GHMC officials.
Father and son need to act
KCR's son and the minister for municipal administration, KT Rama Rao, has launched 'operation demolition' of all illegal structures along tank beds and drains . He has personally visited almost all the colonies that were submerged under knee-deep water, and some others where even cars were floating in the stagnant rain water.
The minister said an exclusive battery of officials and legal experts was constituted to plead in the courts of law in favour of the government and against the encroachments.
The Chief Minister has personally called on the acting Chief Justice of the High Court of Hyderabad, Justice Ramesh Ranganathan, and appraised him of the situation. He has sought the support of the judiciary in removing the legal obstacles for the development of the state and the city in the light of the rains that have ravaged them.
Citizens are already reeling under viral fevers and dengue. Cases of chikungunya, too, have been reported. In less than a week, over 40,000 people visited the Government Fever Hospital. Health squads and paramedics have been put on high alert, while private hospitals are also full of numerous fever cases.
Things are not hunky dory for the Telangana government. Citizens gifted 100 out of 150 municipal divisions in the GHMC elections to KCR's Telangana Rashtra Samithi. Now, the polemic of the Chief Minister and his son have to turn into deeds.
The honeymoon period is over for the TRS. If it doesn't get its act together, the journey ahead may be as bumpy as the current state of the roads of Hyderabad.
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
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