It's difficult for any Hyderabadi to forget the rains that wreaked havoc in October 2020 in most parts of the city. While some lost their lives, others suffered loss of property due to the flooding. This has made many of them afraid of the rain. Now, with the arrival of the monsoon, those fears come true all over again as the city has been hit by heavy rainfall which has resulted in flooding this week. The south-west monsoon in Telangana arrives by mid-June and lasts till early October. This year, several districts have witnessed rainfall since June and the state has recorded 50% excess rainfall.
In such a situation, it's important to find out if Hyderabad is ready for the monsoon. Whether the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) was planning to take concrete steps for the monsoon or not, a group of individuals came up with the 'Hakku Initiative' ('hakku' means 'right') on behalf of the Institute of Perception Studies (IPS), a nonprofit organisation based in Delhi. The Hakku Initiative team, working from Hyderabad, has been asking the question since May, visiting the most vulnerable areas and showcasing their problems to the concerned authorities, and pushing the officials towards a solution.
Last year, soon after the floods, the team and the IPS did a survey on the impact of the floods and the adequacy of relief measures from the government in November 2020. According to the result, about 77.4% faced financial loss, but 43.7% of this number did not have any possibility of a recovery. Adding to their woes, the city was under lockdown for most part of the year, pushing them further into financial distress.
Dr Kota Neelima, author and former journalist, who is also the director of IPS, says that the 2020 rains have left a long-lasting impact on her mind, with a lot of people and their homes and businesses being devastated by the floods. â€śWe have been doing interviews of people who were affected by the floods and most of them are still in fear of the rain and are raging in anger and doubt, whether they will be safe or not this time. They have been wondering if they will be able to recover from the financial loss, given the pandemic situation," she says.
She adds that due to poor drainage systems and naalas not being repaired in time, there were also instances of children losing their lives. It may be recalled that in September 2020, a 12-year-old girl was found missing and later her body was recovered from a drain. Nearly a year later, a seven-year-old boy fell into an open naala and died in June 2021. â€śHyderabad being such a developed and modern city, we should not let our children die due to heavy rains or open naalas. This is unacceptable. If timely measures are taken, such incidents can be avoided,â€ť says Neelima.
Identifying all such vulnerable places, a team of six people who are well aware of the cityâ€™s topography, have been making visits to such areas that are likely to be most affected by the rains as per the IMD (Indian Meteorological Department). The team researches the ground situation and posts about it on social media, tagging the concerned people and requesting them to resolve the issues as soon as possible. They also do regular follow-ups on what has to be done.
The team is as of now covering areas under Hyderabad and GHMC limits, and is concentrating mostly on the flood-prone locations, areas dealing with drainage issues and garbage accumulation, high risk densely populated areas, lake areas, and the Musi riverbed (which was the worst affected last year, according to the team).
The team does two rounds in a high risk area, splitting themselves into groups. The first team makes the visit at around 8 am to assess the preparedness and speaks to people about their problems with respect to commuting, daily work etc. They also do a second round at 11 pm to check the progress and assess risks for citizens due to rains at night.
So far, the team has kept a close watch over 50 areas and they have dealt with about 100 complaints of various kinds, from safety and sanitation to property damage.
The Hakku Initiative's tweets are also being followed by the authorities. GHMC Mayor Vijayalakshmi has been actively replying to the concerns expressed and directing officials to take action.
#Nala with damaged walls, looks dumping yard, birth place for #Mosquitos, Less Safety Measures at Kushaiguda, #Hyderabadâ€” Hakku Initiative (@HakkuInitiative) July 10, 2021
Is Hyderabad #MonsoonReady ? @GHMCOnline @GadwalvijayaTRS @urban_lens @SrinivasBellam @mounika_THI @HiHyderabad @HSPAIndia #HyderabadRains pic.twitter.com/J6Db1An5GO
Thank you @GadwalvijayaTRS garu for taking quick action. Cleaning of Nala was underway today near Qabristan, First Lancer Road, Ahmad Nagar, #Hyderabadâ€” Hakku Initiative (@HakkuInitiative) July 16, 2021
Hope @GHMCOnline will also clear the silt in the nala and fence it.
Is Hyderabad #MonsoonReady? #ManaHakkuManaHyderabad pic.twitter.com/MPMB8Jn0pU
Silt and garbage can be removed to allow free flow of rain water. A fence will protect citizens, especially children, from the risks of the drain. Thank you for taking this up Maâ€™am. @GadwalvijayaTRS https://t.co/wiFq6dy3N7â€” Hakku Initiative (@HakkuInitiative) July 16, 2021
The team says that they started the 'Is Hyderabad ready for the monsoon' campaign two months ahead of the rains, with the objective of finding solutions to flooding during the monsoon, and reducing the risk of damage.
Kota Neelima says that they have been receiving requests from hundreds of residents from several other areas in Hyderabad. The team then visits the area to review the situation, assess the risk and post about it on Twitter. She adds, "There is also a fear among the residents to post on social media or be open about their issues, but this is their hakku/right. Access to clean and safe surroundings is a basic right that they should fight for by opening up.â€ť