The Telangana government’s proposed move to scrap a Government Order meant to protect two reservoirs in Hyderabad has not only angered the environmentalists and citizens but has also drawn flak from Rajendra Singh, popularly known as the ‘Waterman of India’, who has threatened to move the Supreme Court.
The environmentalists and green activists have cautioned the government against the catastrophic move to lift the restrictions on construction activity in the catchment areas of Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar.
Rajendra Singh said he was disturbed by the “heartbreaking” news of the state government announcing the move to revoke Government Order (GO) 111.
Singh, who is chairman of Jal Biradari, requested Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasehar Rao to refrain from repealing the GO 111 that is meant to prohibit constructions within the 10 kilometer radius of the twin reservoirs.
Stating that the two reservoirs are pride of not just Hyderabad but the entire nation, he said scrapping the GO will be in violation of the Constitution and orders of the Supreme Court. He said if Telangana Chief Minister fails to drop the move, he will be forced to approach the Supreme Court.
The winner of the prestigious Magsaysay Award and Stockholm Water Prize took to Twitter to share his anger. He said he was surprised that Telangana which recently hosted a national convention on rivers is revoking GO 111. “This is against law and nature,” he said.
The Chief Minister had announced in the Assembly on Tuesday that the government would soon lift the GO after receiving the report of the experts’ committee.
Singh said the report of the committee will be tailor-made to suit the purpose of the government and not intended to protect the water bodies.
He recalled that the GO was issued on March 8, 1996 to protect the catchment areas of prestigious Himayat Sagar and Osman Sagar, which is the reason for the development of the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad.
The two reservoirs were built across Musi River by Nizam of Hyderabad after the devastating Musi floods of September 1908 which had killed thousands of people. The two reservoirs were the main source of drinking water for the twin cities.
KCR, as the Chief Minister is popularly known, said the GO became redundant as the two reservoirs were no longer the sources of drinking water as Hyderabad is getting piped supply of water from Krishna and Godavari rivers.
The Waterman of India pointed out that the GO covers 1.32 lakh acres in 84 villages and seven mandals.
He said revoking the GO means removing the shield to protect the two lakes and amounts to violation of several judgments of the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal.
“If KCR wants, he can shift these 84 village people from the catchment area and keep the catchment area free for the prestigious Himayatsagar and Osmansagar lakes, thus he can become a role model for other Chief Ministers,” Singh said.
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 for 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.
The GO 111 was brought to prevent acidification of lakes due to air pollution and to prohibit setting up of industries in the prohibited zone.
According to environmentalist Dr Subba Rao, the objectives of the GO were to ensure sustainable water resource management.
The reservoirs were part of the only zero-energy water distribution system in the country, where no water was pumped from the sources, and hence they were completely infused into climate change adaptation.
The government’s proposed move to scrap GO 111 has also drawn flak from the opposition parties which alleged that it was aimed at benefiting the real estate.
Congress national spokesman Dasoju Srravan warned that if the GO 111 GO was abolished, it will pollute not only Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar but the entire Musi River and Nagarjuna Sagar dam, causing serious environmental issues affecting flora and fauna and humankind in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
He also alleged that out of 1,32,600 acres of land under the GO, one lakh acres have been forcibly acquired by top leaders of ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).
The Congress leader demanded an inquiry into who were the individuals who purchased lands in the area covered by GO 111 during the last eight years.
Srravan said the Chief Minister’s statement that Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar are no longer required clearly shows that the government wants to satisfy real estate vultures.