Activists in Hyderabad are up in arms against the construction work being carried out at the foothill of the city's famed Golconda Fort. Sharing pictures of heavy machinery next to the fort, activists allege that the moat, which once used to hold water as a defence mechanism for the fort, is now being destroyed for the construction of a drain.
Speaking to TNM, activist Mohammed Afzal says, "Bulldozers and earth movers are being used for digging and cutting rocks just adjacent to the wall, which could potentially cause cracks along the structureâ€™s surface."
"The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) is constructing a pipeline from the Shah Hatam lake nearby and claiming that it will act as a stormwater drain during the rainy season. But we suspect that it is being done to help a businessman-politician nexus encroach the lake, level the ground and develop real estate," alleges Afzal, who is a Convenor of Heritage Watch and Association for Protection of Civil Rights.
The fort is listed as a heritage structure and comes under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and any construction activity within a 100-metre radius without prior permission is prohibited.
Activists claim that corruption among the lower ranks of the ASI is resulting in the alleged negligence and also state that the construction is a violation of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act.
Earlier this week, activist Lubna Sarwath from Save Our Urban Lakes (SOUL) wrote to the Permanent Delegate of India to UNESCO and to ASI's Superintending Archeologist, Hyderabad Circle, asking them to stop work immediately and take strict action.
"The outflow channels of Shah Hatem Talab are arranged historically to flow into the Naya Qila lake and nourish the Qutb Shahi Bagh (garden) and further on flow into Langer Houz. Now the entire system is being destroyed for corrupt ends. While the government of Telangana is selling the concept of 'heritage city' for votes and to woo global investment, the inside story is pathetic and hypocritical, to say the least," the letter states.
While TNM could not independently contact the ASI officials concerned, reports suggest that the organisation has asked for a report and also stated that there was a long-pending project to 'revive' the moat and make drains wherever necessary, for which prior permission was taken.
"If the moat goes, then the walls will go and the fort will soon follow. When we ask questions, the GHMC and the ASI are answering with silence. Carrying out digging work 12 to 15 feet deep this close to the heritage structure can make the wall collapse. The fort's foundation is on rocks and those very rocks are being destroyed today," Afzal says.