After spending three days at a relief camp at Tolichowki in Hyderabad, 32-year-old Abida Rasheed and her family arrived at their home in Nadeem colony, where they have been staying for the past decade. Abida’s family returned on Saturday morning to a flooded home, to find that there was nothing left to salvage, “Everything is gone,” says Abida, as she moved through the sludge inside her home, taking stock of the flood damage, “It took us years of savings to buy a fridge and washing machine,” she adds.
“All the rice, pluses and stove, everything in the kitchen is gone,” she says. The water didn’t even spare her son’s school books. The little furniture that the family came to own over the years was also lost. “We will have to start from scratch again,” Abida says. Her husband, Rasheed, is an auto driver by profession and was already financially under stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It has been close to a week since Hyderabad saw heavy overnight rainfall on October 13 that left several lakes overflowing and inundated parts of the city. Nadeem colony of Tolichowki was one of the worst-affected, with rainwater from neighbouring localities flowing into the streets around the Shah Hatim lake. On Saturday, many locals who took refuge at relief camps returned, trying to pick up their lives and move on. Locals don't blame the fury of the rains for the flooding. Much of their anger is directed towards municipal officials for allegedly dumping construction debris along the edge of the lake, leaving no space for the flood water to recede. What hurts them more they say, is the apathy of officials in the aftermath of the floods.
“I am here from 7 am and not a single municipal official has come here to take stock. There are still around 50 families stuck in their apartments with no electricity for the past five days and no access to water,” said an angry Syed Tajauddin, a cleric from the local mosque. Syed and a group of men were at the edge of an inundated road, assisting a team of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), which was rescuing people trapped in their homes. “There is no way for the water to recede. The water is still over six-feet in some parts in the colony. The sewerage system is choked and no team from the municipality has arrived till now to clear the drains so that the water can reduce from here. It has been five days,” he adds.
Ahmed Alam, a cab driver from Nadeem colony, who was recently laid off from work, also suffered property loss in the flooding,“There is no place for the water to go even after five days because they have blocked all the exits for the water with construction debris,” he says.
“The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) has also dumped construction debris,” alleges Mohammad Habeeb, a heritage activist living a few streets away from Nadeem colony. “When you keep dumping construction debris on the banks of the lake over time, you get a plot of land that a real estate agent can sell off at a cheaper rate. This is how several of the colonies surrounding the lake came into existence,” he adds.
The GHMC in the aftermath of the October floods has come up with fresh plans to build a new drain at the Shah Hatim lake to carry the excess rainwater and prevent flooding in the future.
G Sathyanarayana, the Executive Engineer with the GHMC for Karwan circle under which the locality falls, said, “We have submitted a fresh proposal for approval. The plan is to lay a fresh 1,500 mm diameter pipe. There are already two drains existing but they aren't enough.” The drains connect the Shah Hatim lake to the Langar Houz lake through Lakshmi Nagar and Prashant Nagar into the Musi river.
“All along this route, there are encroachments which block the easy flow of water. We hope to start the project in two months but require permission from the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) to go through the Naya Qila,” he added.
The Deputy Commissioner for the Karwan circle with the GHMC was unresponsive.
In the meantime, locals hope that the district administration will reach out to provide some form of relief. Abida’s sister-in-law, Fousia, and their neighbour, Asfhfak, were seated on the ground with a book and pen, making a list of all materials both the families had lost in the floods.
”We are preparing this for the government officials. We are expecting them to come door to door to access the damage, but so far no one has come,” says Ashfaq, a student. “Am collecting details from houses on our row. My father asked me to do it,” he adds.
Ashfaq's father, Aharaf told TNM that he had lived through a similar flood at Nadeem colony in 2008. “Then, the officials had come collecting details of what we had lost. We got nothing, but it's still worth a try to make an appeal, so we are preparing a list,” he said.
“It floods here every time it rains, but that waterlogging is just ankle-deep. We can live with it. But this time, we lost more things than in the 2008 floods. My children had started working finally and financially, things were getting better. Now it will take me ten years to reach back to the same level of comfort again,” he adds.
Abida by then, had finished taking stock of her home and decided to return back to the relief camp. “There is no electricity to pump water into the tank so that I can start cleaning the house. I can't clean all this alone,” she sighs. As of Saturday evening, it started to rain again in Hyderabad and the locals know that neither them nor the water have anywhere else to go.
The state government has said that flood-hit families will be identified and handed over the Chief Minister’s Relief Ration kits at their doorstep as part of measures to ensure normalcy in localities, Telangana Minister KT Rama Rao said on Saturday. Each kit, costing Rs 2,800, contains one month’s ration items and three blankets, according to an official release.