Hyderabad: When the rains hit the city on Friday evening, a man was washed away in an open drain near the Chintalkunta area. The man who was travelling on his bike was reportedly trying to cross the drain near Domino's Pizza in Chintalkunta. Luckily, people saw him slip and fall into the drain and immediately rushed to his rescue.
Several other similar incidents have been reported in the city. But many people have not been lucky enough.
On the evening of 25 September, a 52-year-old man, V. Mohan, fell into an open nala at Quthbullapur under Jeedimetla police station. The police, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), and the Disaster Response Force have not been able to find his body even after five days.
The Jeedimetla police station house officer, K. Balaraj, said the missing man works at MTR company. "On the fateful day, he went out with his friends for a drink. They went to Royal Wines in the evening. He went out to smoke and relieve himself," said Mr. Balaraj.
Later, he was seen standing near the open nala before falling into it. People rushed to rescue him but it was too late.
Nala deaths continue
On 25 September, a techie, G. Rajinikanth, was caught on camera falling into a pit near the Golden Temple in Manikonda. The incident occurred at the stormwater drain work site between Golden Temple and Tulip Gardens at around 9 p.m on Saturday. Since Rajinikant did not return home, the family lodged a complaint and a massive hunt was launched.
On the morning of 27 September, a JCB driver found the man's body floating near Neknampur lake. The family members identified the body with the help of his clothes and a tattoo that read 'Swapu' (the name of his wife). Pictures from the site of the accident showed that the drain was left uncovered and the man had slipped into it.
A seven-year-old boy died after he fell into an open nala at Bowenpally's Bhavana colony on 5 June. The incident occurred between 9.30 a.m and 10 a.m.
Anand Sai, who lived adjacent to Chinna Thokatta culvert, was playing outside when he slipped and fell into the nala. His mother raised an alarm when she found her son missing. Following this, the family and the locals launched a massive search for the body. A special team of divers was called from Tank Bund to search for Sai but it proved futile. The Bowenpally police found Sai's body a few meters away from the spot.
On 18 September 2020, a 12-year-old girl was reportedly washed away in a drain at Neredmet under Rachakonda limits. The family had alleged that she fell into the drain running through the colony after a heavy downpour. Teams from the disaster relief force (DRF) and the police found her body 2km away from the house near Banda Cheruvu on Friday afternoon.
The class 5 student, Sumedha Kapooriya, was last seen riding her bicycle at Kakathiya Nagar in Malkajgiri limits. The family resides in East Deendayal Nagar. The girl's parents were inconsolable when they saw Sumedha's body.
Close drains, save lives
"It is not merely the issue of open drains but the lives of people," says Koti Neelima, a researcher at the Hakku Initiative, a Hyderabad-based research initiative that has taken up the issue seriously. As a person who loves walking, Neelima asks, "How safe is it for pedestrians to walk on the roads of Hyderabad?"
Through their campaign 'CloseDrainsSaveLives', the Hakku Initiative is currently trying to locate open drains in and around the city. "There are neither barricades nor warning systems near the drains. Added to this is the problem of lack of street lights," says Neelima emphasizing the need to locate open drains.
The team receives around five to 10 complaints of open drains on a regular day. "We received 20-30 calls a day following the Manikonda incident," says Neelima.
Some of these efforts have been acknowledged by the authorities and repair works have been taken up. But the team believes that it is just the tip of the iceberg and there are many more open drains in other parts of the city which have not been reported yet. They also question why the government is not taking any action to identify and close these nalas.
"Pani ghar mein aatha hain (The water enters our home)," says Sumit Singh, a resident of Banjara Hills. The open drain in the area has been overflowing and inundating the houses nearby. Despite the attempts made by the locals in raising this issue, things have not changed much. "GHMC log neh kuch cement lagaaya hai, par pani abhi bhi andhar aathe hai (The GHMC people put some cement but the water still comes in)," adds Sumit.
In September 2020, the KTR government had announced Rs. 300 crores to tackle the problem. The GHMC had announced closing the open drains following the sanction. But the increasing casualties point to the huge number of drains still left uncovered.