Hyderabad, May (IANS) The decision of the Telangana government to fully scrap a government order (GO) that was meant to protect twin reservoirs of Hyderabad has drawn the ire of environmentalists and concerned citizens, who see it as a catastrophic move for the historic water bodies.
Voicing concern over the government move, they have warned that this would prove to be a death knell for Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar -- the historic reservoirs on Musi River.
Some environmentalists are contemplating to challenge in court the scrapping of the government order 111, as they argue that it is the contempt of the Supreme Court order.
The opposition parties see scrapping of the GO a move by the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) government to favour the real-estate and builder lobby as the GO had imposed certain restrictions on construction activity in the catchment area of the two lakes up to a radius of 10 km.
The decision to fully scrap the GO 111 that was issued in 1996 was taken at the state Cabinet meeting on May 18.
Though the state government had issued GO 69 in April 2022 scrapping the GO 111 restrictions, it had not specified the steps that will be taken to save the twin lakes from pollution.
The Cabinet decided that all the existing rules that are applicable in villages under the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) limits to take up construction activity will be applicable to these 84 villages.
The government headed by K. Chandrasekhar Rao defended the move on the ground that GO 111 was impeding development of 84 villages.
"This has been the long-pending demand from the people of these villages as the GO 111 was obstructing the development of their villages," Finance Minister T. Harish Rao said after the Cabinet meeting.
The government also came out with details of how it plans to protect the twin lakes with the scrapping of GO 111. The Cabinet decided to set up Sewerage Treatment Plants (STPs) to prevent pollution of water in the twin reservoirs.
It was also announced that the twin reservoirs will be filled with Kaleshwaram water by diverting water from the Kondapochamma Sagar project.
The government argued that GO 111 had become redundant as Hyderabad no longer depends on these twin lakes for drinking water. The city is currently drawing water from Godavari and Krishna rivers and the Manjeera reservoir.
It was in 1996 that the government of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh had issued GO 111, restricting major constructions and industrial activity in a 10 km radius of the full tank level of the two reservoirs. It was applicable to 1.32 lakh acres of land in 84 villages in seven mandals (blocks).
These comprise six mandals in the undivided Rangareddy district and one village in Kothur mandal of Mahbubnagar district. The six mandals include Shamshabad, Rajendranagar, Moinabad, Chevella, Shahbad and Shankarpally.
The two reservoirs were built across Musi River by the Nizam of Hyderabad State after the devastating Musi floods of September 1908, which had killed thousands of people. The two reservoirs had been the only sources of drinking water for the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad till 2000, when the government started drawing water from Krishna river.
In March last year, Chief Minister KCR had announced in the state Assembly that the government would lift the GO 111 restrictions.
The move angered the environmentalists and concerned citizens. Rajendra Singh, popularly known as the Waterman of India, had threatened to move the Supreme Court.
Stating that the two reservoirs are pride of not just Hyderabad, but the entire nation, Singh had said that scrapping the GO will be in violation of the Constitution of India and orders of the Supreme Court.
He had said that if the Telangana CM fails to drop the move, he will be forced to approach the Supreme Court.
On KCR's assertion that Hyderabad will have adequate supply of water for next 100 years, Rajendra Singh said this can't be said based on the water pumped artificially into these lakes.
"Further, the state is constitutionally obligated to protection and improvement of the natural resources under the Article 48-A of the Constitution of India too, he cannot escape from it," Singh said.
A PIL was filed in the Telangana High Court last year after the state government released GO 69, lifting he GO 111 restrictions.
The state government had assured the high court that the GO 111 restrictions will remain intact till a committee of bureaucrats appointed by it furnishes its report on measures that should be taken to prevent the lakes from pollution.
After the latest move by the government to fully scrap the GO, environmentalists and concerned citizens termed it as content of the Supreme Court order of 2000.
They claim that the government went ahead with the repeal of GO while the matter was subjudice in the Telangana High Court.
They pointed out that the state government had filed an affidavit in the high court on September 6, 2022, that the GO 111 restrictions were intact.
The government had stated that the report of the experts' committee on protection of twin reservoirs was awaited but without any report, removed all the restrictions, they said.
They pointed out that the GO 111 ensured that the reservoirs remain unpolluted and fit for drinking till date. Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar reservoirs have been giving drinking water till today from 1921 and 1927, respectively.
"Even today (May 18, 2022), 65 million gallons and 9 million gallons of water was drawn from Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar respectively."
"Instead of removing the existing encroachments inside the two reservoirs and instead of stopping of sewage directly being channelled into reservoirs for the past five years, the government is ensuring further pollution by removing prohibitions of constructions as stated in GO 111," said a group of environmental activists and concerned citizens. including Lubna Sarwath, Jasveen Jairath, Prameela Kumari, Jaipal D Reddy, Sanghamitra Malik and Talha Jabeen
They feel that Hyderabad should not forgo its drinking water source within its vicinity of 20 km.