Saroornagar lake dying of neglect

Saroornagar lake dying of neglect
Highlights

The nearly four-centuries-old Saroornagar lake, which once met drinking water requirements of a part of the erstwhile Hyderabad city, is now on its deathbed, after having lately degenerated into a cesspool. 

Miles to go for the Mini Tank Bund …

Hyderabad: The nearly four-centuries-old Saroornagar lake, which once met drinking water requirements of a part of the erstwhile Hyderabad city, is now on its deathbed, after having lately degenerated into a cesspool.

The lake took shape, thanks to Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, fifth sultan of the Qutb Shahi Dynasty of Golkonda and founder of Hyderabad. From its creation in 1626, the lake was largely clean for long until Hyderabad started to expand.

It originally extended over 250 acres, but has since been reduced to less than 99 acres due to massive encroachments and illegal constructions in and around its Full Tank Level and the buffer zone. Today, the lake has a maximum depth of 6.1 metres (20 ft).

Belatedly, the lake was adopted by the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) for restoration in 2003-2004 at a cost of Rs 20 crore. The scheme included setting up a sewerage treatment plant (STP) to treat 250 million litres a day and building facilities for boating.

For some time, it appeared as if the lake could be easily restored to its past glory, considering that a variety of migratory birds started returning to the lake after a long gap.

Subsequently, HMDA came up with an idea to build a park on the banks of lake. Towards this, HMDA spent Rs 1.5 crore, including expenditure on installing sculptures and expanding the green cover to over 5 acres. Named Priyadarshini Park, it is meant mainly for children.

The STP broke down in 2009, resulting in a spike in the levels of pollutants in the lake. With domestic wastes and industrial effluents entering the lake, the water body gradually lost its hard-won chances for revival. Today, pedestrians passing by the place cannot help covering their nose to avoid the stench of polluted water.

The original name of Saroornagar is ‘Suroornagar’. The land here was originally gifted by Nawab Arastu Jah Bahdur, Prime Minister of Hyderabad, to his wife Suroor Afza Bhai. He then built a palace, a tank and named it as Suroornagar, which means ‘City of happiness.’ Later, the name got corrupted to ‘Saroornagar’. Of late, local people have been calling it ‘Mini Tank Bund’.

“I, along with my friends, used to swim in the lake and wash clothes when I was a child. We used to get drinking water from the lake. But, now water is contaminated and can't be used for anything. The government should take measures to restore the lake,” said Shankar Yadav, a 63-year-old a resident of Saroornagar.

“My son frequently asks me to take him to Katta (Saroornagar Lake), but with mosquitoes buzzing in our ears, I hesitate to take him to the lake. If the government takes preventive steps to ensure that the people do not throw garbage into the lake, we can frequent the lake without any hesitation,” observed Thirupathi, a resident of Gaddiannaram.

There are two temples on the banks of the lake: Peddammathalli’ and ‘Kattamaisamma’. People of Saroornagar and its surroundings have enormous faith in these Goddesses.

The Lake Outpost, set up to prevent people from committing suicide by jumping into the lake a la Hussain Sagar, yielded positive results. "Till date we have rescued two persons," said P Raju, a policeman. On the flip side, if there is a heavy downpour, residents of the Green Park Colony face problems as water from the lake inundates houses.

As things stand, if water hyacinth is cleared, the storage level in the lake can be raised, with the result that there would be no more flooding, say residents. Wastes thrown by petty vendors and immersion of Ganesh idols made of Plaster of Paris contribute significantly to the contamination of water. That apart, currently the lake is full of polyethylene bags.

The numbers of boat rides have also been declining due to the unpleasant smell in the lake. “God knows,” say well-meaning residents, “when the lake would be restored fully, so that it can truly stand out as the Mini Tank Bund.”

By Singireddy Manoj

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