Satellite images show 83% of lakes have shrunk in Hyderabad since 1967

Hyderabad: Satellite images from 1967 show that lakes have shrunk by at least 83 percent in the city. The shocking images show the extent to which water bodies in Hyderabad have fallen prey to urbanisation and as such have slowly decreased in size over the years.

The satellite images from 1967 and present-day of Durgam Cheruvu, Mir Alam Tank and three other lakes were accessed by The News Minute in collaboration with World Resources Institute’s Raj Bhagat P and Aakash Malik.

In 1967 the Durgam Chervu covered over 4.7 lakh square meters whereas now it has reduced in size by over 15 percent and is only 4 lakh square meters. Mir Alam Tank which is located adjacent to the Hyderabad Nehru Zoological Park in 1967 was 18.8 lakh square meters but saw a decrease of almost 23% and in 2021 has been reduced to the size of 14.5 lakh square meters.

The historical Shah Hatim Talab located in Golconda decreased by 58 percent. While it covered 3.8 lakh square meters in 1967 it occupies1.6 lakh square meters currently. The Gurram Cheruvu also shrunk by about 55% from 3.3 lakh square meters to 1.5 lakh square meters in the same period.

The worst-case, however, was of the Ramanthapur Chervu, which saw an area reduction by over 83% from 1.2 lakh square meters to a meagre 20,000 square meters.

Between 1989 and 2001, according to some studies, the city lost 3,245 hectares of water bodies that amount to almost 10 times the size of Hussain Sagar lake. The Research Director in Bharathi Institute of Public Policy at the Indian School of Business, Dr Anjal Prakash, highlighted that across south India, and especially Telangana, the tank management system involved a cascading system of lakes.

He said “more than 90% of these lakes were built artificially and carved out using the topography and they were all interlinked. Once water filled up in any of the tanks, it would fill up the tanks located at a lower level and eventually drain out. Various dynasties understood and maintained the same system.” Dr Anjal further added that when the British came, they didn’t understand the system very well and they brought in the canal system because that’s what they knew from the European understanding.

Moreover, Dr Anjal said that during and since the IT boom in Hyderabad the nexus of local politicians, land mafia and the builders’ lobby came together to systemically appropriate the land as it was available free of cost. “The small nalas or feeder channels were lost and the water bodies became independent, unlike the situation earlier, where they were part of a larger interconnected system. These lakes had the capacity to absorb water, but that was lost,” he added.