Years of encroachment and sewage dumping has made living in this area dangerous.

Hyderabad rains Residents around Ramanthapur lake left in the lurch as roads turn riversAll images: Nitin B
news Environment Monday, October 09, 2017 - 19:10

Ramesh stands just outside his shop, overlooking a massive pool of water, that's at least 2 feet deep. 

"I'm scared to sleep at night. My only concern is that when I wake up in the morning, there should be no water in my shop. I keep everything inside, on a raised platform when I close for the night," he says.

Ramesh, a tailor in Hyderabad's Ravindra Nagar adjacent to Ramanthapur Lake, has spent sleepless nights for over a week, after the water body overflowed following heavy rains, and inundated an entire colony. 

Despite this, he is one of the lucky ones. 

"This is my shop and my house. I haven't had a customer for a week now. I don't know what to do if it rains. I can't just leave everything and run. I need to make a living," says Padma, as she breaks into tears. 

Padma, who sells pickles and other food items, had just moved in to the area a month ago and was doing good business, before the rains started. 

Roads turn rivers

The entire colony is a scene of devastation as water refuses to recede even a week after the rains on October 2.

"It decreases a little bit, and then at the slightest drizzle, it floods again. Several people have abandoned everything in their homes and left on boats. Those who have only knee deep water around their houses have stayed, and trying to adjust in any way we can," a local laments. 

Several cellars and ground floors of what otherwise looks like a middle-class colony, are in shambles.

A nearby school has declared holidays indefinitely as water has entered almost every classroom, according to locals.  

"I moved here a few months ago, and this looked like a perfectly decent colony. There was even a nearby school where my son got admission and I never thought that this would be the situation. The roads have turned into rivers," remarks Subramaniam Akella, a senior consultant with a software firm.   

Residents of Akella's apartment used sandbags to ensure that water did not enter their parking lot, and demolished a wall behind the building, to be used as an entry and exit point.

The stench

The water that has flooded the streets of Ravindra Nagar is a mix of sewage and fecal matter.

As the lake overflowed, it also violently expunged sewage that was being pumped into it for years, leaving large chunks of feces floating on the water. 

"It makes me want to vomit. It's always there. Even if we close all our doors and windows, the smell returns the moment we crack a window open. It's horrible," a resident says. 

An unmarked FTL

Despite all this, the deluge was not unexpected.

For years, activists have complained that the lake has been subject to large-scale dumping of garbage and encroachments.

Nine writ petitions were filed in the Hyderabad High Court from 2008 to 2016, following which the court ordered authorities to put up a fence around the Full Tank Level (FTL) of the lake.

One of the petitions even complained that garbage was being dumped by the municipal authorities themselves, besides surrounding Hotel owners. The HC ruling also stated that the owners of the private lands identified to be within the FTL would be paid compensation.

Despite the court orders for demolition, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) is yet to act on the alleged encroachments, which led to the lake flooding the colony. It is also yet to put up the fence.

Speaking to TNM, Habsiguda GHMC corporator Bethi Swapna Reddy said, "The Mayor is also present at the spot and monitoring the situation. We have deployed 15 motors to pump out the water. We had some issues yesterday as the water came back in, but it has gained momentum since then and should clear in a day or two."

"To curb the spread of diseases, we are working with the entomology department to fog the entire area and ensure that the areas where water stagnated, are thoroughly cleaned," she added.

When asked about the reason for the lake breaching, she says, "We suspect that the outlet may have been blocked due to some reason. Once we finish this work, we will take steps to rectify the situation and ensure that this doesn't happen again." 

 

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