The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) is on a mission. Over the last one week, the municipal body has been undertaking several demolition drives in a bid to reclaim the city’s ‘nalas’ (storm water drains).
According to a survey conducted by the GHMC, 844 'critical bottlenecks' were identified for immediate widening, as they obstructed the free flow of water.
"Since the monsoon season is over, it is decided to take up widening of these nalas. Individual sketches for all the properties are prepared and the structural valuations are also prepared by the Engineering Section," the GHMC said in a statement.
Accordingly, instructions have been issued to all Zonal Commissioners, Deputy Commissioners, City Planners, Assistant City Planners, Superintending Engineers and Executive Engineers.
The demolition drive began on October 28 and the GHMC says it has already demolished 93 structures.
"It is also instructed that the demolition drive shall be continued till all the critical bottlenecks on the nalas are removed," the GHMC stated.
As far as encroachments are concerned (which include these critical bottlenecks), the GHMC's survey found that there were 169 encroachments in the East Zone, 168 in the Central Zone, while the North Zone had 252.
The South Zone had the least number of encroachments at 82, while the West Zone had the most encroachments at 318, bringing the total up to 982.
"Since the West Zone, which includes areas like Gachibowli and Serlingampally, developed rapidly, many of the properties were still under the control of local panchayats when they were bought. This gave space for more irregularities to take place and encroachments to occur," a GHMC official opined.
The GHMC has also issued clear instructions to the concerned officers on the steps to be taken for widening the nalas.
Instructing officials from the two departments of Engineering and Town Planning to work together, the GHMC ordered that Engineering officials should be present at the site of the demolition and trace the alignment of the nala, while the latter would demarcate it on ground.
The Engineering team is also responsible for the immediate removal of debris and for taking up construction to widen the nalas after the demolition.
"In case of open lands, if the information related to the land owner is not readily available, we may trench the nala boundary," the GHMC instructed its officials.
The demolition did not go down well with local residents, who argue that builders are the violators in most cases, while owners have to face the brunt.
Many also allege that the GHMC does not serve them a notice nor does it listen to their pleas.
“My 100-sqft house was pulled down by GHMC officials. They called us encroachers. We have registered our house and have all the related documents. Despite this, the GHMC officials along with police rushed to our homes and razed them overnight. Neither were we issued any notice nor were we informed about the drive," a resident in AlJubail colony in Falaknuma told ToI.
The GHMC has said that it will compensate citizens, if those affected were below the poverty line.
Addressing a review meeting earlier this week, GHMC Commissioner B Janardhan Reddy said that 2,000 housing units were ready under the JNNURM and Vambay schemes to be allocated free of cost to poor families.
Many residents have also moved the Hyderabad High Court, which had issued orders to the GHMC on the demolitions in 2016.
The orders rule that the GHMC should issue a notice to vacate the premises at least two weeks in advance, and then pass an order on why the demolition is justified.
"In case of a notice issued and reply being submitted by the encroacher/occupier, a speaking order has to be issued, reasoning the action proposed and demolition to be taken up. In case no reply is received, a second notice has to be issued and demolition can be taken up," the court's orders said.
The GHMC has been filing caveat petitions as a precautionary measure to ensure speedy trials in case a citizen takes them to court.
A larger problem
More than a decade ago, the Kirloskar committee was formed to study why the city gets flooded during the monsoon season.
One of the main reasons it stated was that existing storm water drains were constructed during the Nizam era to support a population of five lakh while the GHMC oversees a population of almost 80 lakh, spread out over 625 sq km, compared to 54 sq km during Nizam Osman Ali Khan's rule in the early 20th century.
During the recent Winter Session of the Telangana Legislative Assembly, Municipal Administration Minister KT Rama Rao admitted that the drainage infrastructure of the city was inadequate.
Stating that Rs 300 crore had been sanctioned for deepening and widening nalas, KTR also said that there were 9,000 km of roads in the city while there were only 1,200 km of storm water drains plus 390 km of major storm water drains.
The Minister also said that they were looking at the recommendations of the Kirloskar Committee, including its suggestion to demolish 28,000 structures that it had identified.