In September, Hyderabad witnessed heavy rainfall that submerged low-lying areas and left many roads in the city inundated. Many frustrated Hyderabadis were stuck in long traffic jams as roads remained waterlogged and the city came to a complete standstill. Four people were killed in Ramanthapur, after the wall of a building collapsed on them due to the rains, while another three persons were killed when their roof collapsed in Bholakpur. Several others were reportedly injured in incidents
across the city as the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) evacuated people living in dilapidated structures. As the water receded, it seemed evident that the city’s infrastructure was crumbling. The illustration of which is perhaps this: a giant, gaping hole in NTR Marg as the road caved in. The rains have effectively exposed the bad shape of the city’s roads and public spaces. The ongoing work for the Hyderabad Metro Rail is not of much help either. Many roads have been narrowed down and cordoned off for construction. The city police on Monday imposed traffic restrictions for 30 days from October 11 to November 10 and plans to set up permanent barricades at the Jubilee Hills metro station. In a press release, the police said that for the next one month, vehicles moving in some of the most dense areas like Madhapur, Jubilee Hills checkpost, KBR Park and Panjagutta would have to take a diversion. This is expected to only increase the pressure on the roads. On the first day of his government, after taking over the newly formed state of Telangana, chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao promised to make Hyderabad a ‘world class city’ by developing infrastructure to meet the requirements till 2050. However, two years on, the city seems to only be going downhill. Ever since the rains, municipal administration minister K T Rama Rao has been on the receiving end of multiple complaints from across the city on social media and has promised to look into it. Following a review meeting, the government is now planning a ‘white topping’ of city roads near Panjagutta and Nagarjuna circle, which converts an existing asphalt road with a layer of Portland cement concrete. The government also went on a demolition spree to clear the city of encroachments among drains. Another serious problem the city faces, is the dust from the crumbling asphalt that is being kicked around by zooming vehicles. According to reports, some areas in the city recorded about 60.9 microgram of dust particles per metre cube in the air, and the weather reporting apps recorded a visibility of just 50% on some days. The Hyderabad Urban Lab (HUL) is an experimental organization in the city, which attempts to develop solutions to the challenges of contemporary urbanization. “There are three things to consider. The short-term plan, the medium-term plan and the long term plan,” says Anant Maringanti, the executive director of HUL. “We do not have any clarity on where we want the city to be in another 20 to 30 years. We do not take the voices of many demographics into account. The stakeholders in the city’s traffic today are real estate ventures and the automobile industry. It is their urgency to make money that is shaping the city,” he adds. Anant feels that the short-term plan, would be to convert various dense stretches in the city, to one-ways, and do away with the hard median. “Often, there is at least twice as many vehicles going in one direction when compared to the other half of the road, and by converting it into a one-way, you can divert the traffic of three roads into one,” he says. Anant also suggests the promotion of public transport, suggesting that the state introduce more buses, and use better mechanism to asses and calculate the vehicle density, before putting out timetables, which ensures punctuality. For medium-term solutions, Anant says “The state has land in its control and can use policy to ensure even distribution of population density across the city. A large chunk of the city, heads towards Hi-Tech city in the morning and uses three or four main roads. If the state can consider using untapped land around Nagole to create another IT sector, then half the population will start moving the other way and the load on these routes also decreases.” There is also the problem of poor quality of ingredients used in the construction of these roads. Reports allege that contractors, besides using a poor quality bitumen-mixture that can easily cave in, are replacing cement with fly ash and river sand with Robo sand in the concrete mix used to lay roads. The GHMC quality control wing permitting contractors to purchase materials on their own, is only aggravating the problem. The state is actually considering a new master plan for the city, where approval for building, would be granted in 30 days and shifted online, to keep track of the files. “Hyderabad has five master plans, and we will amalgamate and incorporate the best to come up with a new master plan within the next three months…The new districts are a step in that direction. We will have a comprehensive plan for these new districts so that the mistake of haphazard growth doesn’t bog them down,” KTR was quoted as saying. The minister also proposed a change in the structure of the GHMC, to tackle allegations of corruption, stating that the government had decided to do away with the major roads divisions in the municipal body, so decisions would be taken at the circle level. “The problem with urban planning schemes is that the time cycle involved is more than one electoral term and politicians should be willing to look at the long-term benefit,” Anant adds.