Hyderabad: Development should not come at the cost of the environment. Ideally, it shouldn’t be an either/or question. However, that is not the case when it comes to development in many places around the world. Satellite images of Nagole metro between 2009 and 2019 show the fast disappearing marshy land of Hyderabad.
It is especially important when you take into account a mass protest in the country in regards to vanishing green cover. The recent Aarey forest issue in Mumbai is a prime example of the situation. Activists are protesting the felling of around 2,700 trees in Aarey for the construction of a Metro car shed.
It is also a reminder of the lone battle fought by Dr C Ramachandraiah for Hyderabad in 2012. He had to fight alone against the cutting of trees because of a lack of public support. Today, due to the absence of documentation, neither Dr Ramachandraiah nor Hyderabad Metro Rail Corporation can clearly state the number of trees that were cut down across the three corridors of Hyderabad metro, nor the number of compensatory trees planted or relocated. The scenario is similar when it comes to deforestation at any part of the city.
Dr Ramachandraiah, a professor in Urban Studies, Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS) told NewsMeter, “HMRC MD used to boast about the number of trees they relocated. During the chopping of trees, we tried to follow the issue. But we couldn’t do much without public backing. Some reports vaguely say that around 3,000 trees were cut.”
Udaykrishna P, Founder of the Vata Foundation, opined, “I don’t think the number of trees that were cut as part of Hyderabad metro construction has ever been audited. I tried filing an RTI, but that was of no help. The government does not maintain accurate data for all these. Some say 40,000 trees were lost for metro. Others say it is 3000. There is no audit of how many trees Hyderabad city had or currently has.”
“We don’t know how many trees are planted and by whom. GHMC and metro rail at times claim the same number. This has been going on for quite some time. Few translocations were made to the Nallagandla area. How many of those trees survived, no idea? They said they would plant around 50,000 saplings at Bits Pilani. But not even one is planted so far”, he added.
Hyderabad has the least open green space in the country. Open green space per capita in Hyderabad is 2.5 Sq meters. For open blue space, Hyderabad has at least 2 SqKm/ lake.
“We have a Tree Protection Committee. All the trees that we lose are signed off by this committee. They are also the ones who are responsible for ensuring that for each tree chopped, five saplings are planted. When the saplings are planted, people take a picture along with it and leave the scene. Nobody sees if they grow or not.” Udaykrishna added.
He continued, “We were a bit late. We couldn’t catch hold of the trees cut for the metro. The Strategic Road Development Programme (SRDP), we translocated trees all over Hyderabad. Around 15,000 fully grown trees we have relocated so far.”
The Nagole area, which can be seen with satellite imagery witnessed very less agitation during the time of the Metro construction. It is a marshland of Musi with green algae and euphoria weed. It is in this marshland metro has come. Nagole is on the east of Hyderabad and covers most of Musi. There is no regulated urban green space in the Nagole region. Over the years many encroachments happened in the area as middle-class, and upper-middle-class started moving to Nagole.
#Nagolemetro: 2009 & 2019 satellite imagery comparison🛰️#Urbanization🏗️ #Development 🏠 #Transportation 🚇@md_hmrl @hmrgov @HiHyderabad @swachhhyd @WeAreHyderabad #Hyderabad #Metro pic.twitter.com/AgFn5t4LLZ
— Pradeep Goud Macharla 🌍 (@Macharlazz) September 18, 2019
Subha Rao, a former scientist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT), said, ”Like Banglore metro, we do not have much-documented data on the number of trees chopped or relocated for metro. Unfortunately, this is the case with most metropolitan cities. Unless activists start coming up, the authorities do not wake up. West-Hyderabad is already saturated. Now people will start moving towards the north-east part of the city.”
Despite the heavy rains that Hyderabad received, the two primary historical sources of water in the city, Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar have not received any inflows whereas they should have become full.
Kajal Maheswari, an environmentalist said, “Public knows the importance of green land. They have seen catastrophizes one after the other. They are seeing what’s happening in Bihar. But until the majority act proactively, awareness is not going to matter. How does it matter if not even one percent of the Hyderabad’s population is coming on the street?”
Dr Ramachandraiah said, “Why the reservoirs are not full should be the worrying factor. Shrinking of water bodies is an ongoing issue for the past two to three decades. Bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh or formation of Telangana government hasn’t changed the life of its water bodies. Earlier, we used to blame the Andhra form of development as a reason for this condition. However, as far as encroachment of water bodies and chopping of trees is concerned, the political developments haven’t done much help.”
The green zones, blue zones, conversation zones and open spaces must be integrated into the master plan, and it must stay for the coming 25- 30 years.
“The problem with our political system is that we change the city’s master plan according to our convenience. Today we even find residential buildings in the industrial area. This kind of violations are happening, and it is dangerous.” said Subha Rao. He continued, “In 1984, there was a satellite map brought out by the National Remote Sensing Agency which depicts the land use of Hyderabad. It clearly showed what the percentage of roads, open spaces, buildings and every other detail of land use is. Unfortunately, that was the first and the last land use map the government has prepared.”
(Image credits: Pradeep Goud Macherla)