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A rock-solid concern!

Whenever my in-laws visited Hyderabad, and I felt pressured to show them my city, I found myself inevitably taking them to Fakhruddingutta in Khajaguda (behind Lanco Hills) and extolling the beauty of the area and the valuable contribution these rocks made to the air quality and the water supply of the city. It was a proud Hyderabadi moment for me to see their astonished appreciation of the unique and stunning terrain. Of my maika, my ammillu!

In Hyderabad, we do not have a river creating a huge plain like the Ganga does to the north, we have no huge mountains and no accompanying avalanches like that of the northern mountain ranges, nothing like the dark high mountains of Tirupati. What we have is our own beautiful, accessible, life-sustaining rocks: clothes are washed and dried on them, children play on them, crops like rice sheaves are beaten on them, people walk among them, medicinal herbs are sought in them, rock climbing enthusiasts enjoy them. And this not just for humans. Innumerable species of flora and fauna find a home among the rocks.

Our rocks do not stop at being stunningly beautiful, they affect the water, soil, and weather of our city: they serve as biotopes (an area which gives life) for flora and fauna. They give us life-sustaining water as rainwater runs wherever the curve of the rocks takes it, forming varied water bodies: waterfalls, springs, ponds, and lakes... (Mother earth's form of rainwater harvesting!) Rocks have aquifers, ducts, gaps and passages that gather and hold water that recharges the groundwater table. They provide a barrier to sharp winds, enrich the soil with minerals and they impact rainfall.

For city dwellers the rocks are a treasure, they have become part of the collective consciousness of Hyderabad. So many Hyderabadis have mentioned that whenever they return home, whether it is by train, plane, car or otherwise, the moment they see the rocks they feel they have come home. The rocks are a Hyderabadi marker for home.

If we cut down a tree, we can hope to replant it and recover the loss of it. But unlike a tree, we cannot replant a rock. Blasting a rock is irreversible: rock becomes stones and cement and we are left with a permanent infinite loss. As the esteemed Hyderabadi filmmaker, B Narsing Rao has said about the destruction he has witnessed of rocks in the city: What we have created is 'A Kurukshetra without blood'. The earth's beautiful gift to our region is being blasted at will, the earth will not restore it to us at our will.

We have lost so many beautiful rock spaces in the city. Fakhruddingutta is one of the few remaining ones. We must work with all stakeholders concerned to forge a path of development that retains us these beautiful life-sustaining rocks. Hyderabad can be known as a great modern city that developed while having the good sense to keep its lung spaces that provide clean air and natural resources that help provide its citizens with water.

We can take inspiration from the old Dakhani verse:"Isne kitni tabaahi dekhi, Iske zakhm ka kuch hisaab nahin,Baavjood iske zamaane mein, Hyderabad ka jawaab nahin."(She has seen so much devastation, her wounds are immeasurable Despite this in all the world, Hyderabad is incomparable).

The beloved song from the Telugu film 'Amar Shilpi Jakanna', speaks to how our rocks have been silent sentinels of all the changes in the area over aeons:"Ee nallani raalalo ye kannulu dhaageno,Ee bandala maatuna ye gundelu mrogeno,Ee nallani raalalo…"(These dark-black rocks, what have they seen. What songs have been sung, amongst these dark-black rocks).

The sculptor poet goes on to sings praises of how the rocks are so giving and flow out at the tap of his chisel:"Paina katinamanipinchunu,lona venna kanipinchunu,jeevamunna manishikanna,silale nayamani pinchunu."(Outside you are hard, but it feels like butter insideit feels like you are better than people who have a life).

It is a metaphor for how much the rocks give to us. As well as how uncaring humans seem to be of their destruction in the city today. Let us heed the message of the song and not let greed for temporary monetary profit take all these riches away from the citizens of this unique city.

There is currently a court order against breaking rocks at the beautiful rock space of Fakhruddingutta, but still drilling has been seen. This is of grave concern. If we do not stop and think through the matter, we cannot later complain when we have Delhi-like pollution levels because we did not save our lung spaces, and, even more, scarcity of water than we have today, because we did not save the very rocks that replenish our water table.

- The writer is a filmmaker and teacher currently working on a documentary on the rocks of Hyderabad.

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