Hyderabad: Were you blaming the gods or climate change when you saw several colonies in Hyderabad in knee-deep waters during the rains of the last week? Don’t. The blame lies elsewhere.
Helped by the criminal negligence of the staff and officials of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), several land sharks have encroached into the feeder channels of the water bodies of the city, which have been resulting in massive inundation during the recent rains.
The twin factors — the impunity of the encroachers and the neglect of GHMC officials have expo-sed several residents of many a colony in the city to the risk of submerging.
Citing lacunae in the GHMC Act, if encroachers have occupied the feeder channels, the GHMC, which has been negligent about evicting them, or registering cases, now had decided to adopt the strategy of “reward and bribe the encroachers”, hoping they will go away.
After failing to curtail encroachments, the GHMC has decided to give 300 per cent transfer development rights (TDR) for persons who hold shikham pattas within the full tank levels (FTL) of the lake, so that they could be moved to a different location.
Due to encroachment of feeder channels, 47 flood prone areas including Na-charam, Rajendra-nagar, Falaknuma, Tolichowki, Khajaguda, Hafeezpet, Balanagar, and RK Puram were inundated in recent days due to the rains. Matter became worse in areas like East Anand Bagh in Malkajgiri, where the disaster respon-se teams had to supply essential commodities, food and drinking water, using boats and rescued people stranded in their homes.
GHMC officials seem to have finally woken up to the realisation that encro-achments have aggravated urban flooding and have decided to amend the GHMC Act, on par with the new Municipal Act.
The authorities said that they would ask the High Court to expedite the Building Regularisation Scheme (BRS) case, which has been pending from four years.
As many as 1.32 lakh residents had applied to regularise their buildings under the BRS. However, officials said, besides these 1.32 lakh unauthorised constructions which had sought BRS, there were over one lakh illegal structures across the city, mostly constructed on beds of water bodies.
Besides the pending BRS, encroachers have been approaching courts for stay orders, citing legal loopholes, which GHMC officials are now rationalising as the reason for the lack of action on their part to evict these transgressors.
Speaking to Deccan Chronicle, D.S. Lokesh Kumar, commissioner, GHMC, said they have decided to amend the GHMC Act with an aim of curtailing unauthorised constructions and empower themselves to be able to demolish structures. He said that amendments pertaining to self-certification and self-declaration would be done in the next general body meeting and sent to the state government for approval.
Explaining the loopholes in the GHMC Act, Kumar said that encroachers have been obtaining stay orders from courts since the corporation had to issue three notices in one month’s time to demolish any unauthorised structure, which gave them ample time.
He claimed that amendments would be made to save the city from inundation. He said that the GHMC was requesting the High Court to expedite the case pertaining to unauthorised constructions, through the office of the Advocate General.
Commenting on encroachments on water bodies, Bonthu Rammohan, mayor, said that to prevent and remove encroachments in water bodies and feeder channels, the GHMC has now decided to issue TDRs to additional built-up area equivalent to 400 per cent of the plot surrendered by shikham patta holders.
Though the government had earlier enhanced the TDR by 200 per cent for conservation and development of lakes, water bodies, nalas and recreational buffer development with greenery, no one accepted the proposal. Citing lukewarm response from contractors, the nala widening was put on hold, the mayor said. The civic body was planning different proposals to save city from the inundation, he said.
It should be noted that while the GHMC feels the courts have come in the way of their work, other state governments have harnessed legal processes to remove illegal constructions.
A Supreme Court judgement ordered the demolition of unauthorised constructions in Kochi’s Maradu area. The SC had ordered the Kerala government to demolish all constructions which have come up in violating of the coastal regulation zone (CRZ).
With the IMD predicting rainfall for more days in the city ahead, Hyderabad is faced with a major disaster in all low-lying areas.