April 27, 2015
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Make Hyderabad development sustainable
With a commercial outlook and an idea of taking maximum advantage of the city, the approach of modern planners is flawed, argues the writer Chukka Ramaiah

The growth of Hyderabad city has been haphazard for the last several decades. The recent heavy rains have only reinforced the fear that it is ill equipped to handle even a moderate rain. Then, one can imagine what kind of stress the city must have taken due to the incessant heavy rains that lashed us for the last one week.

Still, many parts of the city are reeling under the impact of the rains induced floods. Thousands dilapidated structures and homes were damaged beyond repair and thousands of people were rendered homeless. As I discussed in these pages recently the significance of urban areas or metro politan regions in the coming days, there is an urgent need to make the development of Hyderabad sustainable. Hyderabad, built by Quli Qutub Shahs in 1591 was a beautiful city that was supposed to be one of the best cities in the world. Subsequently, the city was development by the Nizams who presided over its destiny, till 1948. It is known to one and all as how the Sixth Nizam Mahabub Ali Pasha tackled the floods to Musi River in 1908.

"There is a vast difference between our approach and that of the Nizams towards the city. The Nizams never treated the city as their personal wealth"

For Hyderabad, two months, September and October seem to be fateful. If we observe carefully, it is during these months the city receives bountiful rains of floods of other calamities. Precisely, it is during this season, 107 years ago, the city witnessed devastating floods that pushed waters up to historic Charminar in the Old city. Then, the Sixth Nizam personally swung into action and supervised the relief and rescue operations that claimed thousands of lives and displaced close to 25,000 people. But, after the short-term measures, the Nizam also initiated a host of measures to protect the city from the ravage of floods. First, he built Himayatsagar and Osmansagar as balancing reservoirs to face any floods to Musi.

Next, he also dug up close to 50 major tanks and more than 300 smaller ponds around the city, to absorb the floods that may occur during the rainy season. The Nizam had the vision to foresee that Hyderabad, located on a hilly and upland area, is susceptible to floods as any small hindrance to the flow of water might create disturbance. Mir Mahabub Ali Pasha also called veteran civil engineer Sir Mokshagundam Vishveshwariah who was working as Diwan of Mysore kingdom to put in place a world-class drainage system in Hyderabad, which had a population of a few lakhs, by early ‘20s. Ironically, still the same drainage system is in use, even after our population has grown 50 folds. He also developed thousands of sq km of forests around the city.
Then, it is the time for us to introspect on what we have done to this city in the last six decades, since we took it over from the Nizams? Not much, if we were to give an honest answer. Till 1980s, the development of Hyderabad progressed on a slower pace. Since then, it went up on a multiplying effect, as huge influx of people from far and wide has made it an urban jungle.

There is a vast difference between our approach and that of the Nizams towards the city. The Nizams never treated the city as their personal wealth. In fact, they earmarked a portion of their personal lands, as surf-e-khas (private estate), around the city so that they would be never touched for his personal usage. Such was the integrity of the Nizams, who were despised as monarchs. But, our approach to the city development chiefly revolved around commercial lines. The way, we looked at this city itself was flawed. Instead, of what we can give to the city, our planners have always wanted to take maximum benefit out of it. We have created many institutions, Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad, Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority etc; Outer Ring Roads, International Airport, Special Economic Zones, industrial parks and what not?
Our entire approach is to make money while sun shines. If Nizams scrupulously avoided using the surf-e-khas lands, our democratically elected chief ministers sold government lands left, right and centre. Now, the urgent need is to have sustainable development of Hyderabad.
Otherwise, the future generations won’t forgive us.
The writer is a former MLC
- Chukka Ramaiah

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