Always, the improvement plays an important role. Here in this now-controversial GO 111, issued on March 8, 1996, following the  recommendations of an expert committee, was intended to protect the catchment areas of the Himayat Sagar and Osman Sagar lakes, which were then the main sources of drinking water to Hyderabad. The foresight vision of KCR makes this GO a useless as it demands in present scenario, hence the repeal or revoking the orders for better improvements.

This order prohibited setting up polluting industries, major hotels, residential colonies, or other establishments that could possibly increase pollution load in 84 revenue villages falling in the catchment of the lakes up to 10 km from the full tank level of the two lakes.

Additional restrictions in terms of earmarking 60% area in a residential layout (ambiguity about the number of households) as open spaces; and 90% of the total geographical area as recreation and conservation use in the master plan were imposed.

Thus, this GO could be considered as a major environmental initiative of its time addressing conservation of land and water resources of a given geographical area.

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On the flip side of it, the said order, or any subsequent ones, failed to distinguish between upstream and downstream areas, to identify and strengthen the institutions and enforcement mechanisms, and to prescribe penal actions against the violators.

That this, GO 111 has protected the catchment area of two lakes and conserved a significant part of the ecosystem of Hyderabad Metro City is a myth perpetuated for long though with laudable objectives but pathetic policy prescription.

To be charitable, implementation of GO 111 could at best be termed as partial success serving limited objectives. As large numbers of unauthorised structures and encroachments have mushroomed in the protected zone after the issue of this GO, it would be sufficient to say that this policy deterrent was grossly inadequate to contain the counter forces of economic and speculative gains likely to be accrued by its flagrant violation.    

The recent announcement made by Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao to review the gamut of issues concerning GO 111 is not a day too soon. Instead of indulging in an acrimonious debate among protagonists of environment and development, it is time to put our heads together for finding appropriate solutions.

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One of the inadequacies of GO 111 is that it lacks the numbers of ambient standards of land, air, and water pollution. A blanket ban -sans any numbers of qualitative and quantitative norms — is unscientific and needs to be corrected.

What is the sanctity of covering the catchment of the lakes up to 10 km from full tank level? Why not 5 or 15 km? Why the same purpose could not be achieved by focusing on various streams depending on their degrees bringing water to lakes? Such questions need to be deliberated up on in consultation with all the stakeholders.

Technology is now available to help us in finding the solutions. This article is written to ignite a healthy discussion for maintaining a delicate balance between environmental and developmental concerns that in fact, complement each other.Just as every policy of the government needs to be reviewed after a passage of time, it is appropriate to review GO 111 after 26 years of its coming into existence.The end objective of conserving quality and quantity of lake water remains same. The only thing is how to achieve these goals.

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The revised order should have better clarity of objectives, scientific and effective ways to achieve the goal, a robust compliance mechanism needs to be put in place.  The experiences gained elsewhere confirm that choosing a market-based compliance mechanism is far more effective than a regulatory system.

To conclude, complete elimination of GO 111 will set an alarm bell in environmentalists’ camp, while maintaining status quo is a losing proposition.Therefore, it would be appropriate to issue a revised comprehensive order based on the learnings of implementation of GO 111.

A significant amount of groundwork has been done in this regard in consultation with reputed national agencies and that needs to be properly documented in an implementation framework. #KhabarLive #hydnews