Hyderabad: Satellite images of Malka Cheruvu in the city’s Raidurgam area reveals how the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) has encroached the heritage water body over the last four years.

The images between 2013 and 2020 show that the Corporation and Aparna Builders, on the pretext of ‘protection’ of the lake, have laid tar road inside its FTL area, and fenced the boundary.

It was three years back that GHMC with funds released by the builder under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives started the lake conservation and beautification project.

Three petitions were filed regarding the matter in the High Court by Anjana Sinha, lake-protection activist Dr Lubna Sarwath and a representative from the fishermen community, Rachakrishna Sudhakar, stating the lake was shrinking due to the activities of GHMC.

Dr Lubna told NewsMeter, “Instead of evicting encroachments by the petrol pump and other constructions, GHMC with Aparna Builders has a Gateway constructions, ‘walkway’, immersion pond and tar road and further stone constructions, all illegal, inside the FTL boundary. You can also find toxic debris from the lake-bed deposited on the illegal road constructed inside the FTL.”

Malka cheruvu was surveyed by Aarvee Consultants on July 25, 2013 and an official map was signed in December 2013 showing all encroachments. The water body was allocated around Rs three crore in 2016 for fencing and other works.  But activists allege that the fencing done has now been totally removed to accommodate Aparna-GHMC stone walls inside the FTL boundary.

Subha Rao, water, environment and climate change specialist told NewsMeter, “In 2017, there was a High Court order asking for a stay on all illegal constructions around the lake. However, the case went to the hands of three judges. The court made certain exemptions to the authorities in order to take necessary steps to preserve the lake. GHMC removed the fencing and showed the Aparna-GHMC stone wall constructed inside the FTL boundary as the new boundary to the High Court.”

 

Activists allege that instead of evicting the encroachers, they are portraying the construction works as ‘protection’ of Malka Cheruvu. They allege that earlier maps indicated around 57 acres, while the 2013 FTL maps indicate 51 acres. Today, the lake’s territory is breached by four acres as admitted in the High Court by the GHMC.

GHMC’s Irrigation department’s Executive Engineer, North Tank Division, Mohammed Khursheed told NewsMeter that they are not violating any environment norms and the measures taken are to prevent further encroachments and increase the lake’s water capacity.

Khursheed said, “We are only making a walking path on the periphery of the water body in order to increase its current capacity. The walking path is only 2-3 metre wide. That’s not going to reduce the capacity of the water body. What the local communities think is that we are shrinking the lake by putting a water tank inside it. But all that we are doing, including desiltation, is to conserve the lake. In fact, the High Court relaxed its stay on the beautification project because we were using only a small area of the lake. “

Dheeshma Puzhakkal

Dheeshma Puzhakkal is currently a Reporter with Newsmeter. An alumnus of Hyderabad Central University, she has interned with Greater Kashmir newspaper and NDTV. Dheeshma has also made short films and documentaries. Her documentary ‘Still I Rise’, which is based on sex-trafficking in Hyderabad’s Old City, has earned accolades in several film festivals, such as International Documentary and Short Film Festival, Kerala (IDSFFK). An avid foodie, she loves to travel and listen to stories that others tell. Photography is one of her all-time interests. She has extensively written on satellite-based journalism, health, consumer, and data stories besides covering anti-crime investigative agencies.