Armed with satellite images of the Musi River in Hyderabad over a period of five years between 2014 and 2019, a social activist wrote to the Chief Justice of Telangana Raghavendra Singh Rathore seeking his intervention to save the river from encroachment. Satellite images show how over the course of a few years the dumping of waste into the river has increased and so have encroachments along the river banks.

The Hyderabad-based activist Lubna Sarwath has also sought a directive from the Telangana High Court to the state government to initiate proceedings against officials and public representatives for dereliction of duty in being unable to protect the river.

The Musi River originates in Vikarabad district in Telangana near the Ananthagiri Hills and only a 50 km stretch of the river passes through present-day Hyderabad. The river then merges with the Krishna River at Nalgonda district.

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A digital survey of the Musi River flowing within Hyderabad was done using Google Earth historical satellite imagery from 2014 to 2019. The activist says the pictures show how over the years dumped garbage and waste by the river bed was leveled and eventually encroached upon in areas such as Shankar Nagar. A field survey of Shankar Nagar where the land was being encroached upon was also done by Lubna who is associated with Save Our Urban Lakes (SOUL), an organisation working to save lakes in Hyderabad.

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The digital survey showed landfills by the river bed and also showed the inflow of waste from the north and south of the city. The activist alleges that the satellite images revealed that over the past few years the wastewater inflow into the river has increased.

The activist says she has sought the court to direct Telangana state Water, Land and Tree Act (WALTA) authority to evict the encroachers and submit an action plan to restore the Musi River. The activist has asked the court to direct the Musi River Development Corporation to submit their report on the work done so far in restoring the river.

“The location where the encroachment is happening is right next to the Telangana High Court. The Chief Justice has been vocal about the poor performance of the GHMC to try and protect the lakes in the city, we urge the courts to hold the officials accountable also,” says Lubna, who also asked the court to hand over the lake and rivers in the city to the care of the public. “If the GHMC is unable to prevent encroachment and the dumping of waste into the lakes and rivers, then let the public take over the protection. As a citizen am ready to work pro bono for the lake and river protection in Hyderabad,” she adds. #KhabarLive