'We have to live with it': Stench from Hussain Sagar nala affects life in slums nearby

Residents allege that even though they have presented their case to authorities multiple times, no action has been taken.
'We have to live with it': Stench from Hussain Sagar nala affects life in slums nearby
'We have to live with it': Stench from Hussain Sagar nala affects life in slums nearby
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"You are able to smell it because you don’t live here. For us, this smell simply never leaves our nose," says 50-year-old Samelu, as he stands outside a small 'basti', or slum, close to Hyderabad's Lower Tank Bund road.

The stench is the result of a massive amount of water flowing just behind the basti, after it was released from the Hussain Sagar's outlet. 

"I have been told it’s full of chemicals, and it is the worst in peak summer. Unfortunately, the houses in the basti don’t have windows that we can close, so we just have to bear with the smell," Samelu adds. 

Several hazardous chemicals and sewage from across the city first find their way to Hussain Sagar Lake, which are then discharged directly from an outlet near Hotel Marriott. This spells trouble for the residents downstream.

The Buddha Purnima Dhobi Ghat, situated at Lower Tank Bund, is closest to the highly polluted water that gushes below. As a result, it faces several problems.

“For decades now, we have been collecting things to be ironed and washed from hostels, offices, restaurants, etc., and we bring them here,” says Ramesh, one of the dhobis in the area. "However, in recent years, the borewell from which we draw water has become contaminated. This has forced us to add extra chemicals while washing the clothes.”

All the workers at the spot have to tolerate the pungent stench that comes from near the outlet as they go about their daily work. And they have no choice but to keep going. 

"Initially there were two outlets – one near Marriot Hotel, which carried effluents from the Jeedimetla area, and another near the Buddha Purnima Project (BPP) office which carries waste from Balanagar and Patancheru," says D Kumaraswamy, Secretary of the Dhobi Ghat association. 

"Around 3 years ago, the large underground pipes at the second outlet broke, following which the sewage and effluents from that outlet was also diverted to merge here. This has not only made things worse for us, but has also doubled our problems," he adds.

Water gushes out of the diverted outlet

Residents say that the outlet also carries a large amount of solid waste with it.

"Look at this,” says K Anjaiah, a local resident, as he points to the rotting carcasses of a pig and a dog floating in the nala. “Imagine how unhealthy it is for us to even live in this area. Nothing is being done about it.”

The issue plagues residents on both sides of the nala, as another slum on the Gandhi Nagar road also faces a grim situation.

Situated next to a Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) dumpyard, just a few hundred metres away from the Marriot Hotel, the residents have no retaining wall, and are under threat of being washed away into the nala with a bout of moderate rainfall. 

"Thirty-two families live here, and I have been trying to get the government to act for decades. No matter which way the wind blows, we either have to smell the GHMC's garbage or the Hussain Sagar's filthy outlet. Our lives are getting destroyed," says Laxman, a social activist who runs a welding shop in the area.

"I have seen so many parties change, and, no matter what, the politicians are least concerned about us. We are all suffering from various ailments. The water provided to us gives us rashes and blisters. Will they come to us only when they want votes?" he asks.  

Locals have protested in the past, with residents and CPI (M) workers, led by the party’s city secretary M Srinivas, blocking the entrance of the Hyderabad office of the Pollution Control Board (PCB).

Speaking to TNM, Srinivas said, “At the time, the PCB wrote to the Managing Director of the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB), whom we met later. While the MD first said it was the GHMC’s responsibility, he later accepted that it came under the jurisdiction of his department.”

“Later, we also met the official in-charge of the PCB, who said that a massive pipeline would have to be laid, but it would cost several crore rupees. We have met officials of the government several times and there is the technology to do it, but they don’t seem to be serious in fixing the problem,” Srinivas adds.

The CPI(M) leader also claims that several residents of Erkala Basti nearby had to vacate their homes after the stench got too strong to bear.

“While the overpowering stench is the direct side effect, there are more indirect consequences, such as several residents facing health issues. With the summer approaching soon, things will get much worse and public representatives are not responding to our pleas,” Srinivas says.

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