Life by a stinky, frothing drain: Struggling for over a year, Hyd’s Dharani Nagar is frustrated

While residents say effluents from industries are causing the pollution, the authorities are in denial mode.
Life by a stinky, frothing drain: Struggling for over a year, Hyd’s Dharani Nagar is frustrated
Life by a stinky, frothing drain: Struggling for over a year, Hyd’s Dharani Nagar is frustrated
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"Why do you want to talk? We have said everything we want to say repeatedly and have not gotten any result. I've had enough," a local says, as he slams the door shut.

A pungent smell fills the air at Dharani Nagar in Hyderabad's Kukatpally area, as large blobs of white foam float on the surface of a nearby drain.  

Another local observes the scene, walks up to this reporter and says, "Don't worry about him. He lost all his belongings and fell really sick. He had to take a loan just to pay his hospital bills."

In September 2016, when Hyderabad witnessed floods, residents of the small colony who live along the drain, were perhaps the worst affected. Thick froth covered every house in the colony from top to bottom, and washed away vessels, supplies, food, clothes, and other belongings completely.

However, over a year later, there is no respite for the locals. In June this year, the nala frothed yet again, after the rains.

But instead of addressing the issue, the Pollution Control Board seems to be in denial.

The situation

Munshi Lal who stays two houses away from the drain, says that the media and the government only remember them during the rains, and forget them throughout the year, when the froth continues to float on the surface of the water.

"My entire house was submerged and so was my bike. I'm just glad that my bike didn't get washed away with the water. There was at least five feet water here and another 5 to 10 feet of froth. Even people living on the second and third floor of apartments were not spared," he says.

"Each time it rains in the night, we pick up whatever we need and just leave. We have no hopes. We go stay at a community centre, a temple or at a relative's place. We come back each time, to see our house filled with the froth. It has turned everything black," he adds.

Lakshmi, a shopkeeper who lives two lanes away, also faces trouble due to the froth.

"The smell that comes in the evening is just unbearable. Whenever it rains heavily. The froth even flies till here sometimes and lands in front of our shop. It is downright dangerous," she says.

Kaajamma is even more distraught, as she lives right next to the drain, which is an outlet of the city's Parka Cheruvu (lake).

(The outlet of the Parka Cheruvu)

The allegations

The small drain eventually branches out into the Kukatpally nala, which is one of the four major nalas that dump industrial effluents into the Hussain Sagar Lake, and eventually the Musi River. The other ones are the Balkapur nala, Banjara nala and the Picket nala.

"I have been here for the past 14 years. The water used to be so clean, that I could just scoop it up in my hands and drink it. Today, if the water or foam touches me, I get rashes and allergies. It turns my vessels black, and makes my entire family fall sick. Fever, disease and this pungent smell are just a part of everyday life now," says Kanjamma.

She also alleges that industries in areas like Suraram and Balanagar have mixed chemicals in the water, which is why the water is constantly deteriorating.

Despite media vans, politicians and officials of the Pollution Control Board (PCB) making a beeline for the area after the frothing during rains, the locals say that they have since been ignored.

The denial

What’s worse, the PCB has claimed that the frothing was a result of detergents and phosphates used by the residents.

"It is episodal pollution. All the detergents may have accumulated in the septic tank of the house and because of severe rain, all this stagnated water may have been pushed out at once, causing the froth," a PCB official told TNM at the time.

Kaajamma strongly denies that.

"If it is really because of detergents, then what is this smell in the air and the rashes on my skin? We are not fools to believe everything they say. The water is extremely polluted and the government has done nothing to address our concerns. They don't care for us at all," she lashes out.

Instead of helping her out, the officials of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) demolished a wall of her house to facilitate temporary relief measures, and left without giving her any compensation, she alleges.

Where’s the solution?

For the residents of the area, even a temporary solution is not in sight.

Speaking to TNM, Dharani Nagar Welfare Association President Mahender Reddy, "They came and conducted many tests, and they keep saying that they are conducting more tests. It has been more than a year, and they're maintaining that it's detergent water."

"We keep telling the authorities that the pungent smell can't be because of detergents, but they're not listening to our pleas," he adds.

"After the floods last year, they said that they would build a retaining wall to avoid froth and water spilling into the area again. However, besides breaking a coconut a few months back to inaugurate the project, no work has started," Mahender says.

"This year, it has only increased. They're constantly assuring that they will do something, but there is has been no response or action. Everyone from the local corporator to the GHMC commissioner has visited the spot, but they still haven't made up their minds whether the water is polluted or not," Mahender adds.

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