No red signal to green depletion
Hyderabad: It is estimated that the city has lost one-third of its green cover owing to encroachments, road widening and diverting forest lands for commercial purposes. But the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation has no accurate data on the current state of the city’s green cover or the rate at which it is being lost. N. Chandramohan Reddy, additional commissioner, Urban Biodiversity, agreed as much “Right now, we do not have the data as to how many acres of green cover we have. For that we are soon planning to record the data using the IKONOS satellite imaging technology,” he said.
The Greater Hyderabad area has 49 major parks, 521 colony parks, 288 tree parks and 159 traffic islands, which accounts for 695 acres altogether.
A publication Glimpses of Biodiversity of Greater Hyderabad, published by the GHMC along with the department of Zoology, Osmania University, Biodiversity Research and Conservation Society, Hyderabad and Zoo Outreach Organisation, Coimbatore, released in October 2012 states: “The rate of urbanisation witnessed by Hyderabad has negatively impacted the vegetation and lakes within the core urban area. Due to lateral expansion in the area under the municipal administration, a lot of forest area will now come under the Greater Hyderabad limits.”
According to the Annual Report 2012 of the AP Forest Department, the recorded forest area of Hyderabad division is 730.75 sq km, of which reserved forests constitute 379.96 sq km, protected forests constitute 244.70 sq km and Unclassed forests constitute 106.09 sq km.
The report also states that the comparison of the current forest cover (2012) with that of a previous assessment year (2011) shows a negative change of 184.30. And of this total area, about 32.19 of forest area is lost on account of encroachments between November 2011 and November 2012.
Shyam Prasad, additional chief conservator of forests, social forestry, AP Forest department said, “The total forest area in the state is 22 per cent, while 33 per cent is the tree area. Our only aim is to try and retain this and also find vacant lands in the city that are suitable for plantation. We need to protect the reserve forest area as well, as it serves as a major link to the biodiversity.”
GHMC project to destroy forest area
The Botanical Gardens that fall under the Kothaguda Reserve Forest is facing threat of severe green cover loss due to the road widening proposed by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation. The Chief Minister recently laid the foundation stone for the proposed project from Kothaguda to APSRTC Hyderabad Central University depot passing through the Kothaguda reserve forest.
The 40-feet road is being increased to 120-feet by the GHMC and as a result a kilometre stretch of the Kothaguda reserve forest stands to be degraded while eliminating an entire water body.
“The widening of the road is illegal as it leads to loss of green cover on the forest land of the reserve forest.
It will also lead to complete shrinking of a lake which lies adjacent to both sides of the proposed road,” said Thakur Rajkumar Singh, founder member of Human Rights and Consumer Protection Cell and the current convenor of the Saving Our Urban Lakes.
The widening of this road in Kothaguda is in complete violation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. The plan states that no activity other than forest and greenery is permitted in the forest zone. It also specifically prohibits any kind of building/developments in a water body zone which includes tank-bed area, FTL and buffer zone.
“There is no need or necessity to widen this road as only limited residents in Masid-Banda village and adjacent colonies use it,” Rajkumar added. However, the chief city planner G.V. Raghu claims that they have not violated any section as per the Plan and have sought permissions from the ministry of Environment and Forests.
“We have taken all measures as per the plan and have also remitted a fee of Rs 35lakh to the department as part of the widening project. We are yet to receive a formal confirmation from the ministry,” he said. Regarding encroaching the lake, G.V. Raghu claimed, "There is no lake in the entire stretch," he said.
Each one, plant one: New motto'
‘Each one, plant one’ seems to be the motto of citizens who feel responsible towards protecting the environment around them. Rather than relying on the corporation or the government, locals are taking the initiative to do their bit, both to help improve the green cover and increase awareness about conserving nature.
Omin Manekshaw Debra, secretary of Forum For a Better Hyderabad has been actively working on rock formation and ecology, urban parks and forests. He said “Whenever GHMC sanctions a tree plantation project, it remains on paper. They spend crores on digging to lay underground cables, but fail to realise its impact on the trees in the area. Trees are uprooted if they come in the way of electric poles.”
A member of the Tree Prote-ction Committee, Debra said, “First the corporation allocates sites to plant trees which are later cut to make way for road widening. What is the point of such decisions?”
Srinivas, a retired District Forest Officer said, “At present, the green cover including the cantonment area, accounts for 27 percent, which should have been around 33 per cent. Any decrease in this will lead to a increasingly hot summers.”
Dr Veerabahdra Rao, horticulturist from Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology said, “Rainwater harvesting should be made mandatory. People must plant trees either in their homes or in the colonies.”
Thakur Rajkumar Singh, founder member of Human Rights and Consumer Protection Cell and convener of SOUL says, “Any interference with nature will lead to disturbance in the ecosystem. We must act soon.”
Biodiversity index improves by 23 pts
In a recent study conducted by Greenleap, under the ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, Hyderabad has been ranked the third greenest city in the country after Delhi and Bengaluru.
The study also says that the city is almost close to the international standard of greenery which is 33 per cent and is one of the forerunners in topping the list. The recently concluded United Nations Convention on Biodiversity brought out one significant addition to Hyderabad’s credentials – the Biodiversity Index.
The good news is that from 36 points in October 2012, the city has now taken a leap to 59. “We will get official figures only by next year. But our constant assessment gave us this result,” said Chandramohan Reddy, additional commissioner, Biodiversity, GHMC.
The Corporation’s latest initiative will add 14 more biodiversity parks to the city in areas including Mallapur, HUDA Colony, APIIC Colony, Road No. 44 Jubilee Hills, Kukatpally, Mayuri Nagar, Gulmohar Colony, among others.
The Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority has undertaken tree plantations in about 4,000 hectares of reserve forest area. Proposed in 2009, this project is expected to complete by the end of 2013. The HMDA has already taken up mass plantations in 2,668 hectares between 2001 and 2008 under the Green Hyderabad Environment Project.