Hyderabad: Of 5,161 cities today, only 269 have water treatment systems. Hyderabad is one among them, thanks to the Nizams.
The Nizams not only focused on education, construction of buildings and industrial development, but also gave importance to public health and sanitation.
Among princely states, Hyderabad had a well-developed sanitation system, which was unprecedented at that time. The Asaf Jahi rulers strived to elevate life standards of common people and it is a fact that sanitation is one of the key factors to assess a society’s standard of life.
Dr Gade Venkatesh, a sanitation expert and author of “The History of Sanitation in Nizam’s Rule” said the Asaf Jahi rulers were keen to acquire world-class facilities in their estate and always focused on high quality.
Whatever they built and developed were the world’s best standards of their times.
He said when the Musi River was flooded in 1908, VIth Nizam Mir Mahboob Ali Khan showed concern. To avoid such havocs in future and focus on draining of storm water, he appointed Sir Mokshagondam Vishweshwarayya as chief adviser and asked him to study the city and chalk out an elaborated plan to manage floods and storm water management.
Sir Vishweshwarayya submitted a plan advising construction of two reservoirs on the Musi River. He also gave a plan to construct stormwater drains. One of the officers was of the opinion that along with storm water drains, there was the need for a sewage drain system to improve the city’s hygiene.
Mir Mahboob Ali Khan praised this suggestion and discussed it with Sir Vishweshwarayya, who strongly supported it.
Dr Gade Venkatesh said a City Improvement Board was established in Hyderabad in 1912 to provide better facilities.
The VII Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan gave much importance to public health and sanitation. In 1921, the Nizam spent Rs 3,71,923 on public health and sanitation (night soil) from Hyderabad Municipality’s total outlay of Rs 7,90,879.
Dr Gade Venkatesh said Mir Osman Ali Khan had introduced scavenger tax and the collection was Rs 8,241 in 1921 and he disbursed Rs 8,166 next year as salary to scavengers.
Dr Gade claims that with the development of sewage system in Hyderabad, manual scavenging was almost abolished. In the Nizam era, safai karamcharis (sanitary workers) who were like sepoys without guns, were a privileged class.
In Hyderabad Municipality area, drainage lanes stretched 5,05,578 ft in 1921 and 14,427 ft of new drainage lanes were added the same year. The total length of the drainage lanes touched 5,78,539 ft.
Dr Gade said that in 1925, the Nizam spent Rs 1,12,090 on roads, buildings, drainage constructions and its management. Likewise, Rs 3,56,008 was spent on public health and sanitation and the municipality budget was Rs 7,78,893.
The city drainage board was established in 1926.
He said new sanitation initiatives were taken from 1937 to 1940. A Sewerage Treatment Plant was established in Asif Nagar water bed for treatment of drainage water.
Another STP was constructed at Amberpet using oxidation pond technology, which treated 53 million litres per day and the treated water was used to irrigate 1,100 acres.
It was one of three to four such plants in the country.
Many people used to visit Hyderabad to study the sanitation system, Dr Gade said.
Dr Gade said usually kings pay attention to extending their dynasty and hoarding wealth, but the Nizams focused more on betterment of the common people.
He said considering the interest of present-day governments, if they desire to build a sanitation system on par with the Nizam’s era, it will take 3,000 years.
Nawab Najaf Ali Khan, grandson of Mir Osman Ali Khan, said the excellent sanitation system is still intact and serves the people more than 70 years since his visionary grandfather.
Original Swacch movement
Sant Gadge Baba of Maharashtra had said that ridding the body of excrement and the soul of stain is the purity of your true God. He was the social reformer who throughout his life cleaned streets of villages. He made cleanliness a Bhakti movement and was the father of cleanliness. He started Swacch movement in 1905, much before Gandhiji returned to India.
Dr Gade Venkatesh is a writer, poet, author, scholar and activist. He has been writing for the two decades. His research on public drainage and sanitation systems in Nizams’ role has got appreciation from various quarters. Officers of the Municipal Administration and GHMC have admired his research on the sanitation system. As an engineer, he looked into the quality of sanitary engineering during the last Nizam’s rule. He wrote a book in Telugu on the history of sanitation in Nizam’s rule....