The civic body of the historic city has learnt no lesson from past mistakes. For them it’s business as usual
J.S. Ifthekhar | Clarion India
HYDERABAD — To err is human, but to persist is stupid. This is true of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation’s style of functioning. It has not learnt any lessons from the floods that batter the city year after year. The present wet spell lashing the city has evoked the spectre of the historic Musi floods. Old Hyderabadis euphemistically call the month ‘sitamgar’ in memory of the great floods that rocked the city on September 28, 1908.
It never rains but pours in Hyderabad. There is no exception this year. For the past one week, people are having a nightmarish experience with the southwest monsoon turning active. The other day the Musi overflowed the bridge at Moosarambagh following incessant rains.
Septembers in Hyderabad are known for excessive rainfall. Of late the wet spell is stretching to the next month as well. Last October’s torrential rains, a record 19.2 cm, breached lake bunds resulting in rain water flooding scores of colonies. The week-long rain fury caused immense property loss and left 50 people dead. But true to its moniker – baldiya – khaya, piya, chaldiya, it’s business as usual at the civic body. Only recently it has woken up from slumber and planning to embark on yet another round of survey of storm water drains in the city. The idea is to remove the encroachments on nalas and drains so as to provide free passage to rain water.
It’s nothing but a case of putting the cart before the horse. Already well researched reports from Kirloskar and Voyant Consultancy committees about encroachment of storm water drains exist. This apart a number of studies and recommendations made since the devastating floods of 2000 are gathering dust. Urban flooding is not a new phenomenon with the city experiencing it during 2008, 2016 and 2017. Clogged up drains and unauthorised constructions on the Musi river bed and along its banks is the bane of Hyderabad. Political interference and government apathy has led to the number of encroachments jumping from 13,500 to 30,000 in the last few years. “Every time it rains government evacuates the people instead of removing the encroachments”, rues well known lake protection activist, Lubna Sarwath.
Government never tires of talking tough about removing the nala encroachments in coordination with the Revenue, HMDA and GHMC but nothing happens. Last year the encroachments on the lake beds of Gurram Cheruvu, Sunnam Cheruvu, Palle Cheruvu, Shah Hatim talab played havoc and caused inundation of scores of colonies. Till date no action is taken to remove them. Umpteen reports and surveys have called for remodelling and widening of nalas in the GHMC area. But unholy nexus between corrupt municipal officials and builders results in illegal layouts and constructions even in notified lakes.
Nadeem colony in the Tolichowki area is a case in point. Every time it rains the colony hits headlines. Boats are pressed into service to evacuate people marooned in flood waters. This miserable story is now being played out in several low-lying colonies leading to huge displacement. Yet no concrete steps have been taken to ameliorate the situation.
Musi floods of 1908
Unlike the present dispensation, the Nizam government was not found napping. In retrospect the Musi deluge of 1908 proved to be the precursor to planned development of Hyderabad. The two principal reservoirs, Osmansagar and Himayatsagar, are the result of the massive floods that left a trail of death and destruction. The disaster also led to the birth of a great poet, Amjad Hyderabadi.
The master of Rubaiyat lost his mother, wife and daughter to the floods. But he lived to write the famous poem titled ‘Qayamat-e-Soghra’ (The Minor Doomsday). The heart-rending nazm captures in vivid detail the havoc wrought by the deluge.
Wo raat ka sannata wo ghanghore ghatain
Barish ki lagatar jhadi, sard hawain
Girna wo makanon ka, wo cheekhon ki sadain
Wo mangna har ek ka ro-ro ke duain
(The sepulchral silence of night, the sinister clouds
The unrelenting rain, the freezing winds
The uprooting of houses, the screaming sounds
Praying with teary eyes, anguished minds)
About his own miraculous escape from the jaws of death, Amjad wrote sarcastically:
Itni darya main bhi na duba Amjad
Dubne walon ko bus ek chullu kafi hai
(In this deluge also Amjad couldn’t drown
Whilst a handful of water is enough to sink many)
The approach of September 28 sends shivers down the spines of many. This day 113 years ago, Hyderabad experienced ‘exceptionally heavy rains’. The tragic event was set in motion on September 26 with a sharp shower and drizzle. From just 6 inches to an alarming 16 feet, the rainfall increased steadily. Like an one-eyed monster, the flood water rose by the hour and spilled over the parapet walls of Puranapul, Muslimjungpul, Chaderghat and Afzal bridge. The latter disappeared without a trace.
Nearly 50,000 people lost their lives and thousands were rendered homeless. People clambered to safety atop the city wall near Petla Burj while 150 persons saved their lives climbing the huge tamarind tree situated in the compound of the Osmania General Hospital. One can still see the 200-year-old saviour tree. “This tree saved 150 lives”, a plaque put up on it says.
Every dark cloud has a silver lining. While in the past Musi floods led to planned development of Hyderabad, now it results in blame game. Everyone agrees that improvement of drainage system and removal of encroachments brook no delay. Yet haphazard development and nala intrusion continues with impunity. A strong political will is what needed to take the bull by the horn.