Development at the cost of nature. Part-2 :
Growth and development are inevitable and necessary to absorb the growing needs of the economy. But the problem lies in the truth that none of this growth is monitored. Giant machines dig the earth out and transport mud to all corners of the city. Ratty trucks with the broken remains of gigantic rocks can be seen ferrying the roads primarily during dusk or night. Most of this quarrying is illegal. Contractors excavate mud and destroy rocks in remote spots often under the dark cover of night for a paltry sum.
Mass destruction of rocks has exacerbated the depletion of green cover. Precious fauna and flora has been destroyed. Loss of these rocks has meant ground water depletion which has further compounded the city’s water woes. Years ago tiny lakes dotted the entire city including the famous Jubilee and Banjara hills localities. Today lakes are found only on the city outskirts in places like Shamirpet. Lakes closer to the city are shrinking every passing year.
Fighting For Conservation :
Though Hyderabad has seen the gradual depletion of rock cover, ecological conservation is an issue that has not found much voice with the population. Most citizens, especially those new to the city, are too busy focusing on seeing a snazzy Hyderabad finding its spot on the global map. But even in this bleak scenario there is a ray of hope for the rocks.
Since 1996, a group of concerned citizens have come together to prevent indiscriminate destruction of the rocks and protect the rocky landscapes. Their organization ‘Society to Save Rocks’ (STSR) has since then been working hard to preserve the rocky ecosystem in the city and state.
Due to their dedicated campaigning, the Government of Andhra Pradesh has added nine rock formations in Regulation No. 13 of the Hyderabad Urban Development Authority (HUDA) for the protection of Heritage Buildings and Precincts. This act of the governments was hailed by conservationists across the country as a great step in recognising the importance of the rocks and the need to protect them. Today Hyderabad is the only city in India where rocks are protected as a natural heritage. Encouraging the government to preserve these rocks by promoting them as tourist attractions i5 an alternative that the Society is pushing for.
But despite STSR’s dedicated efforts, the city faces a challenge as much land in and around the city has already been sold off. Durgam Cheruvu, one of the designated heritage sites is the best place where the government’s attempt at conservation and apathy towards rocks, are both visible. Years ago the lake lay hidden between rocky cliffs and was inaccessible. A few years ago it was converted to a model tourist spot with boating and other leisure facilities. But entire stretches of hills on one bank of this protected area have been destroyed in the past decade to accommodate the fast-growing Hi-tech city. Durgam Cheruvu thus epitomises the ongoing conflict between development and protection in the city.
However some individuals have successfully managed to integrate rocks that abut their house into the structure of their homes. The rock forms as much a part of their home’s interior as does their sofa or any other furniture. Some builders and companies too have taken the initiative to include rocks in their building complexes. While they have included a natural rock structure within their building premise, their focus remains on decorative appeal rather than ecological consideration for the rocks.
Over the years, due to the efforts of organizations like the STSR, the rocks of Hyderabad have found a voice. But the din of the construction industry and growing needs of an expanding city are far louder than the voice of these few individuals. What the rocks require are greater public support and a deeper appreciation of their existence. Locals, tourists and governments need to take a pro-active approach to ensure that growth includes preservation of rocks and their eco-systems. After all if a booming economy overtakes billions of years nature, the consequences and blame will have to be borne by none other than the citizens themselves for the only people who stand to gain will in reality be the ones of who lose.