Environment
Some families have filed court cases staking claim to several acres of land that was once underwater, stalling restoration work taken up under the state government’s Mission Kakatiya.

Residents around Secunderabad’s Kapra lake have been up in arms after restoration work at the water body has come to a grinding halt just a few months after it began.

Locals say that this development occurred after water was drained out of the lake as part of the restoration project and the land underneath is now being eyed by land grabbers. A few families have come forward staking claim to several acres of land and filed court cases, thereby stalling the restoration work taken up under the state government’s Mission Kakatiya.

“We are dismayed and very concerned that everything has come to a halt,” says Gulshan Gev Bamboat, a local resident and a member of Green Sainikpuri.

Locals have also raised questions on the massive dumping of mud along the corner of the lake, which has been choking the water body.

The Kapra lake, spread over 113 acres, was the largest water body in the area a few decades ago, but had turned into a cesspool due to rapid urbanisation.

“We wanted desilting to be done and a bund to be built outside the fence set up along the lake. The bund is not only inside the lake, but is also too wide now. We wanted a six-feet walking track, but they have built a walking plus cycling track. The width of the bund is eating into the lake,” Gulshan says.

The locals have now taken to social media, seeking help from TRS Working President KT Rama Rao, who was the state’s former Municipal Administration and Urban Development (MAUD) Minister.

Locals say that the situation is such that the Irrigation Department has reached out to them to find a solution to the deadlock caused by the court cases.

“It is sad to see a government official approach citizens for help. Where is the government machinery? Is it in place and what are they doing? How can several acres of land inside a lake belong to one individual?” CS Chandrashekar from Green Sainikpuri asks.

With Ganesh Chathurthi approaching soon, sources told TNM that government officials on the ground are also facing pressure to refill the lake, as the water body is used as an immersion pond during the festivities.

Meanwhile, Irrigation officials say that those who have staked claim on the land are armed with ‘patta’ (land deed) documents.

Speaking to TNM, Venkata Prasida, assistant engineer, Irrigation department, Kapra, said, “Those who have moved the court say that they were given patta lands long ago, even though it was inside the lake.”

Officials say that there are two types of compensation. While monetary compensation in exchange for the land is possible in some cases, Hyderabad and other urban areas have high land rates, so there is a separate policy in place called Transfer Development Rights (TDR).

“Even this requires the coordination of various government departments. The Revenue department first has to determine if they are patta lands or not as per their records. Then they have to define the boundaries, after which compensation has to be given by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC),” Venkata adds.

“When a fence was put up before restoration work started, the lake was full. That time there was no objection from anybody. But now after the water has been drained out, several encroachers have staked claim to land inside the lake. They have even physically threatened the contractor from carrying out the work,” Gulshan says.

“It is political will that is required to solve this problem, nothing else,” Chandrashekar adds.

Read: Was Secunderabad’s Kapra Lake ‘manipulated’ for a tennis court? Activists armed with proof