Recently, truck-loads of debris were dumped on the hill by encroachers.

The rocks in Khajaguda covered under debris
news Environment Friday, February 25, 2022 - 10:56

At around 7.40 am on Thursday, February 24, a series of loud noises – possibly from an explosion – resonated across the hillock of Khajaguda and scared away the peafowl perched on a boulder. The Khajaguda hill is home to a plethora of flora and fauna, and the geological formations on the hill were identified as ‘heritage precincts’ over a decade ago, before the status was revoked in 2017. However, surrounded by the IT corridor and proximate to the Outer Ring Road (ORR), the rocks are  under constant threat of illegal encroachment by realtors, and last month, they saw significant destruction when conservationists could not visit the hill owing to the Omicron-variant threat.

There are at least 15 unique rock formations in the area, formed millions of years ago, which have been inviting rock climbers to challenge them every weekend. However, in January when the rock climbers and trekkers could not visit the hill, encroachers took the opportunity to dump debris on the western side of the rock formations, levelled the ground, and completely changed its landscape. According to trekkers, at least 100 trees were cleared on the hill to create an illegal road on the hillock within just 20 days. The encroachers are also allegedly planning to construct a road which would connect the ORR on the west-side. 

“Many birds are not seen anymore because of the destruction,” laments Arun Vasireddy, an ecologist, who has been documenting the rock formation for the last 10 years. “Aloo rock, which was about 18-20 feet, is one of the toughest rocks to climb. During a championship event, a foreign national almost climbed it,” Arun recalls, pointing out the potato-shaped rock. Presently, this rock and many others like Balloo rock and chicken leg rock are covered under the debris, depriving rock climbers in the city a chance to have fun outdoor activities and conserve them. The largest of the open cave formations in the region are found at Khajaguda, with Castle Koppies or Tors being the more famous rock formations.

The chicken leg rock partially covered under debris and loose soil

In 2009, 15 rock formations in Khajaguda were identified as ‘heritage precincts’ under Regulation 13 of Hyderabad Urban Development Authority Zoning Regulations, 1981. However, this status was revoked in 2017 after the Telangana government scrapped the Regulation, paving way for destruction of the rocks and boulders. Challenging the 2017 decision, Hyderabad-based ‘Society to Save the Rocks’, an organisation working to preserve the granite formations in the deccan plateau, had approached the Telangana High Court. The court had subsequently issued a show-cause notice directing both Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation and Hyderabad Urban Development Authority against any further demolition of rocks.

Debris on the edge of the hillock

While the trial in the case is still progressing,  activists and rock climbers allege that realtors are continuing to demolish the rocks. “Both the GHMC and HUDA continue to overlook the demolitions,” Arun says. 

Determined to save these rock formations, activists and heritage enthusiasts have launched the ‘Save Khajaguda Rocks’ Campaign.  

Khajaguda cave

“This levelling of the hill will alter the drainage path. The rain water which was flowing in a particular direction will now flow in a different direction. This is a big risk,” says Anant Maringanti, director of Hyderabad Urban Lab, a research organisation working on the challenges of urban coexistence.

“Three years ago, in Bhojagutta a landslide occurred because the Bhojagutta hill was demolished. A similar incident could happen if Khajaguda hill is disturbed,” he observes. The hill is also being mined from the east-side. Presently, nine spots in the hill are under the threat of illegal encroachment, activists say. 

TNM reached out to both Gandipet Mandal Revenue Officer Rajasekhar and Narsingi Inspector of Police Shiva Kumar for their comments on the issue. The story will be updated when the officers respond. 

 
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