The Telangana government will scrap an order (GO 111) that was issued in 1996 for the protection of Osmansagar and Himayatsagar reservoirs supplying drinking water to the state capital Hyderabad.
Following a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao told the media that green zones and a master plan for the region covering 1,32,000 acres in 84 villages close to Hyderabad’s IT corridor, presently protected under GO 111, will be unveiled soon.
The chief minister had last month announced on the floor of the state assembly his intent to scrap GO 111. His statement triggered strong opposition from environmental activists who termed it a contempt of the Supreme Court judgment of 2000.
Rao on Tuesday said that a committee headed by chief secretary Somesh Kumar along with officials from the state pollution control board and the forest department will ensure that the two reservoirs are not polluted.
The GO had prevented big constructions and development within a 10 km radius of the catchment areas of the two lakes. Post scrapping of the GO, the CM said, sewage in the upstream areas will be treated and prevented from entering the water bodies.
Citing the lack of development in areas under GO 111 and demand from farmers for the scrapping of the order, Rao argued that the two water bodies had become redundant since the government was now able to draw drinking water from rivers Krishna and Godavari. He has even stated that the drinking water needs of the city of Hyderabad are taken care of for the next 100 years.
On the contrary, activists have repeatedly stressed that repeal of the GO would lead to uncontrolled urbanisation and concretisation of an area that should be ideally declared an eco-sensitive zone and protected for future generations. They have underlined that the primary cause of daming the tributaries of river Musi – Esa and Musa – was to mitigate future floods after Hyderabad was devastated in the 1908 deluge.
They have also argued that scrapping the GO 111 would be illegal as the government has unilaterally done so without public consultation, disaster management or environmental assessment study. Also, the National Green Tribunal had sought the report of an expert committee from the state government before any decision was taken.
The two reservoirs built in the 1920s, commissioned by the last Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur, occupy about 2000 sq km area and store about 18 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) of water. Activists feel that the two reservoirs have a further lifetime of several decades though the holding capacity has been compromised with no desilting activity taken up in the recent past.
To counter the chief minister’s views that waters from rivers Krishna and Godavari were sufficient for Hyderabad’s needs, activists point out that these rivers flow through multiple states and could not guarantee the present share of water in the future. Moreover, Hyderabad has witnessed multiple urban floods in recent years and strengthening the two reservoirs, according to them, is the need of the hour.