Hyderabad: The death knell for the city’s lakes was sounded in the 1990s when the then government issued a notification stating that water bodies smaller than 10 acres could be used to build residential and commercial purposes. As a result, more than 3,000 water bodies within the city limits disappeared by mid-2000s which also saw a real estate boom.
There are now a mere 185 lakes in Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) limits. What is even more alarming is that as many as 10 lakes in the city are on the verge of disappearance, with four lakes already disappearing.
The full tank level of 25 waterbodies under the Himayatsagar alone has reduced to about 1,222 hectares from 2,081 hectares. A study has also revealed that combined water spread under the basins of three lakes, which served as major watersheds for Hyderabad and surrounding areas, has come down by 40 per cent between 1978 and 2013.
A technical report, ‘Documenting disappearing water bodies of Hyderabad city’, prepared by the Society for Participatory Development revealed that 27 lakes and kuntas under Himayatsagar, Umdasagar and Miralam tank systems have totally disappeared during this period.
The impact has been manifold, with aquatic life deteriorating, groundwater levels declining, and waterlogging and flash floods becoming common during heavy rains.
The government finally formed the lake protection committee comprising officials from the irrigation and revenue departments, GHMC and the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority. The government asked the committee to mark the FTLs of the lakes and fence them to stop further encroachments.
Even though records of Hyderabad’s lakes from the Nizams’ times are safe at the State Archives and Research Institute, the government has not got them translated from Urdu to zero in on encroachments.
Responding to a writ petition, the then Andhra Pradesh High Court during the mid-1990s had asked then Hyderabad Urban Development Authority (HUDA) to submit records pertaining to the number of lakes in the city. The authority then came up with the idea of not considering water bodies below 10 acres as lakes and kuntas and that they can be used for residential and commercial purposes. This even led to a government order, which has resulted in disappearance of 3,000 of the 7,000 manmade and natural bodies.
This is how Mir Jumla Kunta in Talab Katta became Bhavaninagar and Shamalkunta in Ameerpet turned Sundarnagar. The Nawab Saheb Kunta, Bathukamma Kunta, Masab Kunta, Yousufguda Cheruvu and several others vanished.
HUDA had identified 169 lakes as being 10 acres and above, covering approximately 90.56 sq. km. After formation of the HMDA, 501 lakes were identified in 2010 as being under HUDA and 415 lakes under the irrigation and command area development department. Ironically, after 10 years, the number of lakes has reduced to just 185.
When queried, officials said the GHMC has already marked the FTL of 185 lakes and has fenced 53 of them. Encroachments could not be removed as people have been holding pattas and registration certificates. “The issue has been taken to the notice of government, which will take a final call,” a senior GHMC official maintained.
*As many as 399 lakes have disappeared in the last 10 years, 14 of them in Saroornagar mandal. Two are now in the “process of disappearing”. Another 10 lakes are on the verge of extinction.
*19 lakes are being developed under the urban Mission Kakatiya, including Patel Cheruvu, Ambeer Cheruvu, Boin Cheruvu, Malka Cheruvu, Pedda Cheruvu, Cherlapally Tank, Mukkidi Cheruvu, Nallagandla Cheruvu, Oora Cheruvu, Anthangani Kunta, Surram Cheruvu, Maddela Kunta, Mohini Cheruvu, Durgam Cheruvu, Nalla Cheruvu and Fox Sagar.