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Riverfront development? Cosmetic changes along Hyderabad's Musi river 'mean nothing'

By Sudhansu R Das 
Why do our political leaders  compare  Indian river with Thames, Hudson or Rhine of the western countries? Indian rivers are no less beautiful and economically productive than any other rivers in the world.  
Musi river of Hyderabad was once the lifeline of the city. Interesting history, folklore, myths and mysteries are attached to the Musi river. It was the harbinger of growth and prosperity in Hyderabad. It had boosted agriculture growth; it met the water needs of Hyderabad and it kept the city climate cool; the river inspired artists and poets to create classic pieces. 
Musi river was a nature’s gift to the people of Hyderabad. Over the years, corruption, mismanagement, apathy, ignorance, lack of involvement of the educated residents, lack of environmental awareness among people, lack of leadership and lack of participation of youth have made the once beautiful river Musi into a dying river.
Recently, the state government declared to spend Rs 50,000 crore on the Musi riverfront project; it aims to develop the river on par with the River Thames of London. The project is part of the 'Vibrant Telangana 2050' which includes metro rail expansion and comprehensive development of the city within the outer ring road (ORR). 
Musi in her lifetime has given food, water, wealth, life and livelihood to the people of Hyderabad. Today the river has been converted into a garbage dump. Environmentalists say the death of river Musi will bring disaster to the city.
“There are as many as 14 industrial estates comprising 1,458 industries causing pollution. This affects the livelihood of a number of people,” says Dr Muthyam Reddy, professor at Osmania University. “Action should be taken against the industries that release poisonous effluents into the river,"  he recommends A strong action needs strong political will, clear vision and an eye to see social, economic and environmental importance of the Musi river.
In order to revive the river, the state government should take a series of initiatives in a systematic manner before spending money to revive the river. First, the government should discuss the river issue with the experts, environmentalists, nature lovers, natural sector economists, historians, social workers, senior citizens, intellectuals, students, residents and the farmers. The leaders need first hand information about the condition of the river.  Grass root level information can help the leaders repair the river. 
A team consisting of political leaders, environmentalists, experts, natural sector economists, farmers and city intellectuals should start a Padayatra from  Ananthagiri Hills in Vikarabad from where the river originates. The team should cover the entire 100 kilometer stretch from Ananthagiri hills to Hyderabad and make authentic documentation of the actual status of the river. 
The river traverses 56 kilometers inside Hyderabad city in a very painful condition. The teams should delve into the causes of the river’s sickness. The government should not pour concrete and steel on its bank and the adjacent areas for developing modern infrastructure; no new concrete structures should be allowed on the river bank and on its flood plain.
Riverfront development is not viable until the river is brought back to its original shape. “The Musi Riverfront Development Corporation Limited (MRDCL) developed walking and cycling tracks and did landscaping works on the surrounding land. Today, barely anyone goes there to walk; because who wants to get up early in the morning to walk next to stinking sewage? These cosmetic changes mean nothing. The river needs a complete post-mortem,” says Mohammed Rizvi, a civic activist. 
Inside the city in a 20 kilometer stretch the river seems irreparable because of chemicals and garbage which have been poured into it by the people who lack no environmental awareness and social responsibility; they do not know the death of the river can bring deaths and diseases to a large number of people in the city. 
Environmental awareness campaigns should start on a war footing; efforts should be made to convince people about the economic, social, religious and the environmental benefits of the river. If people learn the importance of rivers they will be ready to repair them. 
Removing encroachment is a big challenge; the phenomenal growth of population adds to the problem. Religious ideologues, volunteers and social reformers should help people understand the importance of population control which is essential for the revival of the Musi river.
River's 20 kilometre stretch in the city seems irreparable because of dumping of chemicals and garbage
Native plants should be planted along its bank by the government, people and volunteers for the repair of the soil and the health of the river. According to the Matsya Purana, planting of trees is a pious action.  According to it, he, who plants even one tree, goes straight to heaven.  The Puranas emphatically discourage inflicting injury to the trees. 
The emotions of lust and greed of a human being grows due to the destruction of trees. When those trees get demolished, the senses of people get dazed.  The Vāyu Purāna says that if the trees, which protect all living beings like mother, are cut, the earth becomes like a hell. Varāha Purana says that trees should never be cut. If by mistake or unknowingly one cuts the shady tree, he will certainly fall into hell after his death.
If people do not believe in what the scriptures say, they should move out and feel the hell created in many Indian cities due to cutting down of trees and due to the destruction of water bodies. The garden city Bangaluru has become waterless and many other cities will follow suit. When people lose their sense, they invite death and destruction to their fellow beings.
It is difficult to prevent people from dumping garbage in the river unless people realize that the death of the river will give them a huge economic burden.  A recent survey found that two villages on the banks of Musi river, Edulabad and Peddagudem, had spent Rs 45 lakh in five years to buy drinking water. The cost of drinking water will increase in the coming years and the pure water will become scarce in the state.
The Nizam of Hyderabad had carved out Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar from the Musi river in order to save the residents of Hyderabad from flood. These two reservoirs continue to supply drinking water to the city. There were hundreds of lakes and water bodies in the city which were either polluted or disappeared into concrete jungle.  Many natural and manmade lakes still exist; those lakes can easily meet the water needs of Hyderabad at a far lower cost.
The Congress government in the state should save the Musi river, the lakes, the native trees and the water bodies in Hyderabad through strict implementation of laws, strong action and awareness campaigns. The slogan Save the Musi River and the lakes should be converted into a people’s movement.  The infrastructure growth in the city is meaningless without the water bodies which provide drinking water, attract private investment, sustains life and make the city livable.

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