GHMC officials describe the walking tracks laid as part of the ongoing lake beautification project as “Social Fencing”, and assert that the tracks in no way sanction encroachments in the full tank level (FTL) of the lakes.

While activists are crying foul about the walking tracks being only an excuse to give sanctity to encroachments, officials claim the contrary. They are to protect the lakes from further encroachment, they say.

“During Nizam era, many people were given Shikham pattas inside the FTL, and later structures came up on the same lands. One way to address this problem is spending hundreds of crores of rupees to give them compensation. Another practical way is to conserve whatever lake is left of the encroachments, by demarcating the boundaries. We have chosen the latter,” says a top ranking official from GHMC on the condition of anonymity. Shikham pattas give the land owner right to enjoy the produce from the land when the lake receded during summer, but prohibited any kind of construction within.

On how such bunds would protect the lake, officials show the example of Necklace Road built on Hussainsagar. It effectively contained the spread of encroachments from M.S.Maktha, and preserved the lake boundaries, they say.

Diversion of sewage

Officer on Special Duty, Lakes Wing, GHMC, Shekhar Reddy says that the major aim of lake beautification project is the diversion of sewage entering them. “Diversion of the sewage will save the lake from water hyacinth, which will stop proliferation of mosquitoes. We are laying only earthen tracks for walking and developing greenery around the lakes, as social fencing,” he says.

Further, the tracks do not stop the authorities from taking action against encroachments, he asserts. He also says that the tracks will not be flooded during heavy rains, as provisions have been made to drain the excess water.

In case of Durgam Cheruvu, the Chief City Planner S. Devender Reddy says all the layouts inside the FTL of the lake were actually sanctioned by the HMDA (then HUDA) after 2001.

Irrigation department demarcated FTLs only for the lakes from which water was drawn for cultivation, and Durgam Cheruvu, by the dint of its hidden existence, was not one among them. After the heavy floods in the year 2000, the department had deepened the outflow channels for the lake, which resulted in exposure of much of the FTL area, Mr. Reddy said.

Later, layouts were sanctioned in the same area by HUDA. The Irrigation Department woke up to the need for FTL demarcation only in 2012-13, by when it was too late to save the lake.

PILs are now pending in High Court against the encroachments.

The GHMC is sprucing up 20 lakes as part of the first phase of lake beautification project.

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