Hyderabad was once known as the city of lakes, and even now, it is around one artificial lake, constructed way back in 1562 AD, that daily life moves forward in the city.
The Hussain Sagar is not just a link between Hyderabad and its twin city of Secunderabad. It is, like the River Musi, what connects the city’s present to its past in myriad ways, as this juggernaut of a city thrusts itself into the glitzy trappings of a global metropolitan city.
However, all is not well beneath the dark waters of the Sagar. All could not be well, especially when there have been four major drains, carrying all the filth from across and beyond the city, opening their mouths into this lake for several decades, not mention various other forms of abuse for over a century.
Restoring this historic lake, healing all the injuries that were inflicted upon it has been on the priority list of successive governments and civic bodies, but with nothing much happening.
The efforts had seemed to pick up pace in 2004, when the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HUDA) announced a Rs.300 crore Japan Bank International Cooperation (JBIC) aided project to prevent pollution of Hussain Sagar. It even announced that by 2010, pollution in the lake would be a thing of the past. That did not happen, and worse, the project in fact encroached into the lake area, with a sewage treatment plant (STP) being built on the lakebed
On the other hand, city-based platforms like Save Our Urban Lakes (SOUL), formed by like-minded people who feel strongly about the issue have come together to protect and promote the lake. Also, a Clean Hussain Sagar Forum of HMDA for cleaning the lake, supplemented with public participation, has been established to make the water body sustainable and widen its scope.
For the positive side, after over a decade of efforts that were marred by ups and downs, the HMDA has reached a stage where they firmly proclaim of having ensured that not a single drop of untreated sewage is flowing into the water body.
This, they say, is the result of a project ‘Hussain Sagar Lake and Catchment Area Improvement Project’ (HCIP), taken up by the HMDA. As part of this, authorities claim that they have addressed the issue of sewage inflows in to the lake after successfully diverting industrial pollution that came from the Kukatpally nala into an effluent treatment plant at Amberpet and by releasing the treated effluents into River Musi.
Two sewage treatment plants (STP) have been set up to tackle polluted sewage coming from the inlets of Balkapur nala, Picket nala and Banjara nala apart from a 5 Million Litres per Day (MLD) capacity STP at Rangadamini lake located in Kukatpally.
The Rangadamini Lake lies in the catchment area and untreated sewage from here was directly reaching Hussain Sagar through a natural drain. A separate STP has been set up, which provides secondary level treatment and disinfection before discharging the treated sewage into the lake, - HMDA Chief Executive Engineer, Param Jyothi.
According to HMDA officials, among themselves the STPs have ensured that no untreated sewage was getting into the lake.
Municipal Administration and Urban Development Minister KT Rama Rao, while inspecting the trunk sewer laying works at Hussain Sagar in December 2015, said an undertaking by the government to take up development works at Hussain Sagar Lake at a cost of Rs.58 crore proves the State government’s commitment towards lakes. Emptying of Hussainsagar Lake
The Telangana government also toyed with the idea of emptying the water body during summer in 2015, but the idea was later dropped after experts suggested that the plan was theoretically possible but practically difficult since it might give rise to several other problems.
Later, an advanced machine to clean the lake was pressed into service, in April 2016, as part of the cleaning programme. The amphibious excavator machine was procured by the HMDA at a cost of Rs.2.48 crore. The machine is now being used to clean the lake’s shoreline and improve the water spread. Armed with a 15-m long boom, the excavator can move on land, in water and in marshy areas, HMDA officials said.
The officials also use the machine to remove immersed Ganesha and Durga idols during festivals. With Rs.2 lakh maintenance cost per month, the machine is being operated for about eight hours every day, according to HMDA.
With the High Court suggesting that the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation should construct separate enclosures for idol immersion, the corporation proposes to build separate enclosures at 10 different water bodies including Hussain Sagar in the city and its outskirts.
At present, Ganesh idols are removed from Hussain Sagar within 48 hours of immersion from the Necklace Road side but due to lack of equipment, the idols immersed on the Tank Bund Road side of the lake still continue to pose a certain amount of threat to the lake, Ms. Jyothi said.
Minister KT Rama Rao had also made an appeal to the people of Hyderabad and Secunderabad to go for eco-friendly Ganesh idols and that their height should not be more than 20 feet. He said that the de-centralisation of Ganesh immersion would help in overcoming the problem of lake pollution.
With all the lake protection and restoration works in live mode, HMDA officials have started believing that change is possible. The only catch, they say, is that with the amount of sewage, pollutants and the destruction that has been done to the lake, it will take at least 10 years to notice change in the water colour and bring back the past glory.
Apart from the prevention of sewage reaching the lake, there are other major clean-up exercises proposed under the JICA-assisted HCIP project. This includes a revamped system to clean Hussain Sagar, put forth by JICA, and involves the following components: Removal of floating material and shoreline cleaning; Treatment of inflows; Improvement in quality of lake water; Protection of lakes and nalas in catchment areas; Public awareness and Stakeholders participation.
The removal of floating material and shoreline cleaning has the entire 14 km of shoreline divided into six sectors in order to enhance level of cleaning and to have controlling, monitoring & accountability. Removal of floating material in the middle of the lake will be removed by pedal boats and motor boats. Similarly, hyacinth and algal blooms floating in the water will be handled through motor boats.
It is also proposed to deploy two vehicles with dumper bins which move continuously around the lake and collect waste material and transport these to designated GHMC disposal sites. Two sanitary Officers/retired officials are to monitor these operations.
Treatment of inflows into Hussain Sagar is currently being done in two ways. Under I&D’s (Interception and Diversion Structures, all sewage and effluents coming from four Nalas are stopped by I&D Structures and they are diverted through big sewer lines. There are seven I&Ds constructed at various places on the Nalas. Then, there are the STPs.
Two STPs are being taken up on the mouth of two Nalas of the lake. They are a 30 MLD STP, opposite to KIMS Hospital at Picket Nala and a 20 MLD STP, adjacent to the Khairatabad Fly Over at Balkapur Nala. Only treated water from these will be let into the lake for maintaining water balance.
In order to improve the quality of lake water, the operations proposed will include dredging of sediments at the mouths of Nalas and aeration, for which seven High Jet Fountains are installed. Further aeration and oxidation measures are proposed to be taken up in future for improvement in quality of water.
For a little bit of history, the lake was built by Hazrat Hussain Shah Wali in the year 1562 (AD), during the rule of Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah and named to express the gratitude of Ibrahim Quli Qutub Shah to Hussain Shah Wali who helped him to recover from illness.
Linking the twin cities, Hyderabad and Secunderabad, the lake is a sprawling artificial lake that holds water perennially. The water body was originally constructed by forming a Bund, now known as Tank Bund, in a natural depression at about 513 m above MSL.
The lake was used as drinking water source for Hyderabad from 1860s to 1930s. The main purpose of building the Lake was to make way for irrigation and other water related requirements.
As per a study done in 1986, the lake had catchment area of about 300 square kilometer, with a free catchment of 175 square kilometres and a storage capacity of 1, 68,000 Cubic Meters at 511 MSL and the peak flood flow.
The feeder Streams of the lake are the Balkapur Channel, the Banjara Hills drain, Kukutapally drain and Picket drain, which have shrunk in size and now become sewage drains. All the storm water from Banjara and Jubilee Hills, having contour levels varying from 590 to 610m above MSL and the surrounding areas, drains into Hussein Sagar which is at 511 m .The reduction in the water spread area of the lake over the years reduced its holding capacity, resulting in flooding of low lying areas both on upstream and downstream of the lake.
Building tanks and creating lakes was considered a sacred activity during the times of Qutb Shahi and Asaf Jahi rulers. Today the Tank Bund has got special recognition with the 33 statues of the great luminaries of both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, standing at one side of the road.
Just around the lake there is the beautiful Lumbini Amusement Park. This small yet well maintained park attracts people of all ages. Tank Bund is one of the major morning walk paths of the City of Hyderabad.
The lake which becomes more attractive in the nights with thousands of lights surrounding it from all sides also has an enchanting Birla Mandir hewn on a hillock nearby and a sailing club on one corner. Regular lessons and competitions are held for those who are interested and want to learn the sport.
The lake is surrounded by four major gardens; the Indira Park in the east, Sanjeevaiah Park in the north, Lumbini Park in the south and a green belt stretch squeezed in between the Raj Bhavan road and the Necklace Road. On the Southern side of the Lake there are the Secretariat, the NTR Memorial, Lumbini Park and the Hyderabad Boats Club add to the attraction of the lake. On the Northern side there are the Secunderabad Sailing Club, Sanjeeviah Park and Hazrat Saidani Ma Saheba Tomb - all of which are popular tourist attractions.
The beautiful gardens on both sides, well laid foot paths and benches, fountains with dancing waters and the colourful lights reflect peace and prosperity in the whole atmosphere.
Also, on the eve of Ganesh Chaturthi each year, the idols of the Lord Ganesha are immersed in the waters of Hussain Sagar Lake which again is an absolute delight to witness. Thousands of these colourful idols in different colours and forms being brought to the lake in a procession attract a huge number of people to the lake every year. However a number of NGOs and local people have now begun to agitate against the immersion in the Lake as it is one of the reasons for the water that is getting contaminated.
Known as India’s “Statue of Liberty”, the 16-meter, 350 ton monolithic representation of the Buddha stands above the calm waters of Hussain Sagar. Carved in White Granite with its right hand raised in Abhaya Mudra, a gesture of welcome, the Buddha Statue gazes towards the heavily trafficked Tank Bund.
Having witnessed the refurbishment campaign for the Statue of Liberty during a visit to New York in 1984, N. T. Rama Rao, then the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, is quoted as stating, “You (Americans) have the appreciation of the liberty of the nation…I wanted something like that.” He further said that he was inspired to build a symbol like the Statue of Liberty in Andhra Pradesh which would at a single glance represent the prosperity of our culture and the distinction of our heritage which will be a humble contribution to society.
In October 1985, the Chief Minister laid the foundation stone for the project and he seems to have felt a personal connection to it.
The status was seemingly designed to be a symbol uniting the impressive artistic achievements of the State’s Buddhist past.
A suitable piece of granite was selected by the renowned architect S. M. Ganapathi in 1985 who supervised a team of sculptors from the state governments Endowment Department. In 1988, a roughly carved Buddha was transported from the village of Raigiri in Nalgonda district to Hyderabad. A team of sculptors continued to carve the sculptor in a workshop which was set up near the Lake itself. The Hussain Sagar Buddha statue is the world’s tallest monolithic stone statue of Gautama Buddha and it was designed for over a year.Tragedy strikes
On March 10th, 1990 when the statue was loaded onto a Pontoon boat to be floated over to a small island on Hussain Sagar, the barge was inundated and the image slipped into the lake killing eight people in the incident. The mammoth sculptor remained face-down at the bottom of the lake for more than two years until, through the challenging efforts and feats of modern engineering, the largely undamaged figure was salvaged and finally installed on its pedestal on December 12, 1992.
The tragic initial installation attempt, which was preceded by NTR’s political defeat in the year 1989, gave rise to a legend that this image was somehow inauspicious and any party participating in the inauguration of the image would be defeated in the polls. However, the statue was not intended to be an uncanny presence; it was intended to be a celebration for a state unified by a glorious ancient past.Rock of Gibraltar
The visual vocabulary of the image can be analysed only by a visit to the monolith which is installed on a structure called ‘Rock of Gibraltar’ or the Buddha Island. The “Rock of Gibraltar” was constructed in the middle of Hussain Sagar with a lot of effort to aid in erecting the statue.
Cruising in the waters, tourists get mesmerized by the shining lights demarcating the lake and a wonderful view of the city’s landscape. One can also enjoy a different view from the other side of the lake close to Sanjeevaiah Park.
The journey to the Rock on which the Buddha stands takes less than fifteen minutes after which the boat docks behind it allowing the passengers to take a stroll around the figure in a well maintained garden from where they may look up to the Buddha’s cool but benevolent gaze. In front of the structure the grassy plaza which provides space for spending some peaceful time and posing for photographs with the Buddha. The lack of seating on the rock encourages visitor to mill about and also inspect the sculptors carved at the base of the image which depict scenes from the state’s famous or no longer extant stupas.Holy Pilgrimage
The Statue was later made a holy statue by Dalai Lama in 2006 when he visited the structure and consecrated it after performing a ritual thus giving it a holy pilgrimage.
“The noose around the neck of Hussain Sagar was further tightened when Necklace Road was laid in 1990s. The Necklace Road, which was flaunted as an alternate link to Secunderabad to reduce traffic on Tank Bund, is not serving its intended purpose” - Rama Rao.
Experts believe that an alternate link could have been achieved by widening and realigning the Raj Bhavan Road adjacent to the Railway Line, at much lower cost and without encroachments in the water spread area of the lake.
As per the original plan no development or commercial activity was to come up on the waterfront of necklace road except the green belt. But as days went by it appears as if the road turned out to be a clever camouflage, to justify and legalise the change of land use and encroach the water body and the stipulated 30 meters buffer zone around the water body.
As our cities grow bigger and eat into habitats that used to house other living beings, it is important that we think seriously about how we can share our spaces with other species in a way that is safe and pleasant for them as well.
The Hussain Sagar Lake was famous for its aquatic life and the delicious Murrel fish in particular. The biodiversity index report that was released during the Global Biodiversity meet in 2012 admits a huge decline in the number of fish species, from 78 to 12 in city lakes. The Hussain Sagar was obviously one of the victims and the fish that once thrived in population were all seen floating after the sewage was let into it and the increase in pollution killed all the fish that depended on the lake.
To study the situation and reason behind the disappearance of the fish from the lake, students of a school in Hyderabad collected water from Hussain Sagar Lake and Shamirpet Lake as part of a project during the same year, reported that the former was jet black while the latter resembled the urine of a person suffering from jaundice.
Hussain Sagar was once a stopover point for the winged visitors including Flamingos, but it is now a dead lake.
Bird watchers say the migratory birds, while choosing the lakes for their stay, look at availability of food, safety and quality of water.
"The migration happens for food. When they stop at the lakes enroute, they see if water is available. They have to fly a lot and food is their propeller" - M. Shafaat Ullah, Hon Secretary of Bird Watchers Society.
However, the Telangana Government as part of its lake restoration project inaugurated a Butterfly garden at Sanjeevaiah Park on June 2nd 2016.
The park has been developed over 4.5 acres at the site and there are about 60 varieties of flowering and nectar-yielding plants and trees which include plantations that play an important role in attracting butterflies. Some of the species identified were the Pioneer, Plain Tiger Striped Tiger Butterfly, Crimson Rose, Blue Tiger, the common bush brown and the common evening brown.
“The Hussain Sagar and its surroundings have very wide diversity of butterflies. This ecosystem must be maintained and developed to improve bio-diversity” - HMDA commissioner T. Chiranjeevelu.
The Urban Forestry wing of HMDA has also developed an arboretum consisting of tree species as well as seven theme parks inside the Sanjeevaiah Park.
A fishing zone is being created at Siddhartha Pond located below the Khairatabad flyover. This is after the Buddha Purnima Project (BPP) wing of the HMDA proposed a fishing zone in the lake after it found that the pond has a scope for fish to thrive in it. The pond is located adjacent to the 20 MLD sewerage treatment plant and treated water directly flows into the pond, which has facilitated aquatic life.
HMDA executive engineer BLN Reddy said the density of vertebrates and invertebrates has seen an increase ever since the diversion of nalas and zero discharge of polluted water into the lake were ensured. However, the corporation has not done quantification on the aquatic life in the water body yet.
Apart from the fishing pond, three bird watching towers are being set up at Necklace Road — two towers inside Sanjeevaiah Park and one outside PV Gyan Bhoomi. The hut-shaped towers will be two-storeys high with each level accommodating 25 persons at a time.
Birds like the common coot, purple swamp-hen, black winged stilt, Indian grey hornbill, little grebe etc. have been spotted around the lake in recent times. Three pairs of white geese were released in Siddhartha pond by the HMDA officials. The HMDA, with the help of its JICA city NJS consultant, is also creating islands which will serve as nesting grounds for birds that visit the lake.
All these, it is expected, will help restore the past glory of the lake, which has tirelessly been standing by the city ever since it was created during the Nizam era.
The irrigation under the lake was abandoned in the 1890s, as there was an increasing pressure on land for use other than agriculture. But the lake continued to be used as a source for drinking water until the 1930s. The lake could not supply the required quantity and the quality of water as it deteriorated due to increased pollution from the process of urbanization. But it has continued to be an ecological and heritage asset of the city.
“The large scale shrinkage of the water spread area and heavy pollution of lake waters started in early 1970s, due to indiscriminate housing development around the lake and heavy industrialization in Jeedimetla, Balanagar etc. areas and discharging untreated and under treated domestic and industrial effluents into the inflow channels” - Capt. J. Rama Rao, a city bases veteran environmentalist
The Ecological deterioration of this lake, since 1970s, is a cause of great concern for all, who desire to conserve this Water Body which was not just a drinking water source but also continues to be an ecological and heritage structure of the city.
A popular but sad joke is that one day, the Buddha statue in the middle of the lake would end up as a traffic intersection. Many believe that the joke might soon turn into reality if we do not take some drastic steps to stop the abuse
The original size of the Hussain Sagar Lake which intersects the twin cities for all practical purposes was 1,600 hectares originally. It is probably the most unfortunate thing happening for a city once known as the city of lakes but over the years, Hussain Sagar has been a victim of encroachment and it is now converted into a virtual garbage bin.
In 1995, National Remote Sensing Agency imagery declared its size was 416 hectares, which meant 3/4th of its area had been eaten away. Five years later, the Hyderabad Urban Development Authority (HUDA) issued a notification, where it put the area of the lake at 549 hectares. Despite a directive by the Andhra Pradesh High Court in 2001 that no permanent structure should be built near the water spread or the catchment area of the lake, violations in the name of promoting tourism have been more the norm than the exception.
According to a report produced by Capt. J. Rama Rao, who worked extensively for over 30 years to save the lake from encroachment, a twin carriage road was laid by the name Visvesvaraya Marg, which is now called NTR Marg, connecting Secretariat to Khairtabad by rail over bridge in 1980s, a large area of the lake was bunded off and reclaimed by filling it up on the land side. Out of this reclaimed area, 26 hectares (64.246 acres) was converted to recreational use and 55 acres was later allotted for development as NTR Garden.
The report also stated, the land use of the balance area of 4 hectares, adjacent to NTR Garden, was converted from Water Body to Commercial by issuing G.O. No. 363 dated 23rd April, 1995. Out of this the area of 2 acres, with an estimated cost of Rs. 50 Crores approximately, was leased to M/S Prasad Productions for setting up IMAX theatre, for initial period of 33 years, vide G.O.Ms. No. 194 of 19-10-2000.
The remaining area was to be utilised for setting up an Amusement Park, but part of it is now being utilised as parking space for Imax Theatre, while the rest of the area is being used by a private party, for exhibiting and sale of the used cars, which is nothing but a commercial activity.
The A.P High Court in its Order dated 15-6-2001, in W.P. No. 26378 of 2000, concluded that
“No further permanent structures, including those involving commercial activities, may be allowed to be raised on or near the Water Spread or Catchment area”.
But unfortunately, the so-called temporary structures, to circumvent the precluded Permanent Structures, continue to be raised on a permanent basis on the waterfront of Necklace Road for carrying on commercial activities. Experts say that the shrinkage is happening in spite of the Court Orders, HUDA Notification “Save Lakes”, Water, Land and Trees Act 2002 and many other regulations.
At one point in time, if you claimed to be a good swimmer, you had to prove it by swimming till the Rock of Gibraltar in the middle of the Hussain Sagar Lake and come back. Today the feat is considered next to impossible, with the stench of the lake proving a huge challenge. International sailors in the past have grumbled about having to take part in a sailing championship in a lake of such poor water quality.
During the 10-day Ganesh festival, the idols translate into about 20,000 tonnes of plaster of paris and 300 tons of iron. A survey in 2009 showed that the Chemical oxygen demand (COD) and biological oxygen demand (BOD) in the lake (both measures to check the level of pollution in water) shot up dramatically after the festival. The COD jumped from 141 to 580 and BOD increased from 50 to 145. But experts state that it would be unfair to make the Elephant God the sole villain of the story. An equally big menace is that of sewage and pollutants being dumped into the lake from across the city.
The Hussain Sagar Lake suffered continuously for decades from the sewage flowing from four nalas being dumped into it and the fear has been that one day the lake will end up as a large sewage effluent tank in the heart of Hyderabad.
In fact, the groundwater of any area within a radius of 5 km from the Hussain Sagar is highly contaminated. Studies have shown the cadmium level in the sludge of the lake is very high, thanks mainly due to industrial effluents from the unorganised sector of steel galvanising and electroplating units that come into it through different unmonitored nalas.
Environmentalists say the deterioration of the Hussain Sagar mainly happens because the lake is no body’s baby and too many agencies are involved. Moreover, the prime land right in the heart of Hyderabad City, forming part of Hussain Sagar, has become an attractive commodity with low risk and high profit real estate business with quick bucks.
As the water spread area was being encroached by unauthorised housing colonies opposite Raj Bhavan, near Khairtabad Railway Station etc., the Government appointed in 1980 a committee under Roda Mistry to study and suggest measures for stopping encroachments and beautifying the lake. Based on the recommendations of the committee, the then Bhagyanagar Development Authority, formulated a scheme called “Buddha Poornima Project” and the Govt. issued G.O.Ms.No.1047 MA dated 8-9-1991, approving the project.
The project has been on since then, working to protect the lake from pollution, encroachments and other dangers that might pose danger to the survival of the lake.
The following categorisation is applicable to TDS, Do and BOD values Only
A: Drinkinkg water source without conventional treatment but after disinfection.
B: Out door bathing (organised).
C: Drinking water source with conventional treatment followde by disinfection.
D: Propagation of wild life, Fisheries.
E: Irrigation, Industrial cooling, Controlled Waste disposal.
Note:Aalysis shows water of Hussain Sagar lake falls in D and E categories