Developing tools for urban planning and environment management: A unique effort of...

Developing tools for urban planning and environment management: A unique effort of an environmental NGO in Hyderabad


B V Subba Rao
Centre for Resource Education, 201, Maheshwari Complex
Masab Tank, Hyderabad 500 028 India

Urbanization is inevitably linked with modern development, and as such is viewed by many as a necessary burden to carry. In fact, some see it as indicator for a scientific approach to human life, away from the rigid framework of traditional beliefs and customs. It is considered as an ideal place to live an independent life, offering enormous freedom to liberate one’s mind. However, the daily drudgery of urban life in comparison is generally glossed over. If one studies the urban problems one cannot but conclude that in the name of development modern human being has spawned an urban culture, which at once strikes at the basic roots of existence and survival, though not direct always.

Scenario in Hyderabad
Hyderabad is one of the fastest growing cities – its population estimated at 2.2 million in 1981 has reached 5 million in 1992. This was the result of a host of changes in the socio-economic policies of the governments. Hyderabad is considered as a cosmopolitan city with its population as varied as Indian population. Equally, its problems are as varied.

It is generally a common notion that poverty forces people to migrate to cities in search of better employment opportunities. This is true. But it is largely unknown that even affluence is an equally strong reason for migration to cities. With social change, choice of professions is also changing. Affluence enables people to become doctors, engineers, etc. which earns them money and a social status.

However, poverty continues to be the main factor for rural-urban migration. Drought, floods, and vagaries of climate accentuate this situation. Ecological changes disturbed the hydro-geological cycle in several areas of Rayalaseema and Telangana regions. Cyclones and floods became the scourge of coastal areas. Natural disasters on a continuous basis weaken the resolve to live in these areas. Thus, poverty and affluence, illiteracy and education and degradation and nature, lack of opportunity, all cause urbanization.

Hyderabad has a growth rate exceeding 5 percent. In Andhra Pradesh, other cities like Vishakapatnam, Vijaywada, and Tirupathi, do not match this growth. There are several factors, which necessitated such a migration; categorized as `push’ and `pull’ factors. Push factors are those, which induce migration leaving the people no choice, but to emigrate to Hyderabad. There are pull factors even. Firstly, it is the seat of power structure. Secondly, it houses several industrial areas like Nacharam, Jeedimetla, Ramanthapur, Balanagar, Azamabad, Katedan, Moulali, Uppal, Cherlapalli, Patancheru, Bollaram and Saroornagar. Thirdly, it has become an important centre for national research organizations and institutes like CCMB, IICT, NGRI, NIN, NRSA, DRDO, DMRL, DLRL, National Police Academy, National Institute of Rural Development, etc. It also has several agricultural research institutions the biggest of them being the International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), apart from the Agricultural University. Also, it has as many as six universities. Thus, Hyderabad `attracts’ all sections of the society, and the unlimited scope for employment, real or perceived, has a magnetic effect.

This population shift resulted in enormous pressure for shelter and services fraying the infrastructure. This haphazard growth had its consequential effects on the communities, and the community values. Law and order is the first casualty. Many of the problems are linked to inappropriate patterns of industrial development and the disjointedness between strategies for agricultural and urban development.

Traffic congestion, housing, road conditions, pollution, unemployment, crime and violence: all of them are interrelated as if there is a network of problems, balancing and perpetuating each other. There is as yet no study to identify the reasons for traffic congestion, and the necessary mitigation measures. But, generally, the failure of mass transporting units like buses and trains in easing the problem owing to different factors had led to the above-mentioned problems.
Resource Degradation
Haphazard growth of Hyderabad has degraded natural resources like water, air, and soil. Environmental pollution has reached alarming levels in the last 5-6 years. This has been chiefly due to industries and automobiles.

Effluents of several bulk drug industries are stored in open pits. This led to extensive ground water pollution affecting the sources of agricultural and drinking water needs of the surrounding colonies. Several lakes have been inundated with effluents from industries, including Hussainsagar. Environmental conditions in Ramanthapur and Uppal areas continue to be the cause of concern. Most of the industries are in the midst of residential areas, with no proper drainage system and without any effective monitoring of the industrial discharges.

Nacharam is another typical example where an industry coexists with human habitat. A bone-meal factory, which was a continuous source of obnoxious smell and foul air, was shifted out owing to public pressure. There was a proposal to lay a pipeline to carry effluents of all the industries in Nacharam to Amberpet to be let out into River Musi. Presently, the ground water in an area of 100 is polluted by nitric acid. Usage of hazardous chemicals on a large scale both in transport, storage and manufacturing processes in the midst of residential areas has potential ramifications, which have been generally ignored by everybody.

Modern industrial development, particularly of the chemical industries in Hyderabad started with the location of Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals at Balanagar. Though not recognized then, its location has been the source of all problems of pollution in Hyderabad – it is located in the catchment area of Hussainsagar and in the windward direction of Hyderabad. A host of industries developed on the upstream of all water channels of Hyderabad, thus, subjecting the residents to numerous problems. Establishment of IDPL resulted in the proliferation of chemical and pharmaceutical industries in Jeedimetla, Kukatpally and surrounding areas. Due to a vacuum in the Town planning policy, industries and residential areas developed alongside each other. In the process, prime agricultural land and a series of percolation tanks upstream of Hussainsagar were obliterated.

Jeedimetla, supposed to be India’s biggest small-scale industrial area, is virtually a gas chamber. Solid wastes can be seen dumped everywhere, industrial effluents take gravitational course and end up in roadside pits and the ambient air is befouled by a variety of pollutants. Air pollution is rampant in the industrial zones caused by boilers, process fumes and automobiles. Ground water pollution is extensive; accidents are frequent while the effect on human health is continuous and maximum. After considerable public pressure, a common effluent treatment plant was established. But this might not be the complete answer to the pollution problems in this area.

Azamabad industrial area finds itself among the residential areas of Ramnagar, Vidyanagar, Musheerabad and Baghlingampally, despite being on the outskirts of Hyderabad 40 years back. At present, the only option is shift out the industries in this area. Presence of these industries is a continuous health hazard to the surrounding residents. Katedan industrial area poses the same problem as Jeedimetla and Azamabad, and more. It lacks many infrastructural facilities with most of the industries belonging to small-scale sector. Though situated in Medak and Ranga Reddy districts, industrial area of Patancheru, Bollarum and Cherlapally are nearer to Hyderabad due to territorial proximity. There are many highly polluting industries in Patancheru and Bollarum, which lack even minimum pollution treatment facilities. Almost 25 villages are affected by the industrial pollution. Crops are damaged, land is degraded, general health of population has declined sharply and cattle are dying in numbers. Cherlapalli is another of concern for environmentalists.

Garbage Management
Everyday, tons of garbage is produced in the twin cities. However, the whole process, of garbage disposal, is governed by apathy, irresponsibility, unaccountability and non-chalance. Owing to not-in-my-backyard approach, there has been frequent shifting of garbage dumping sites, or centralizing the collection, which does not solve the growing garbage crises. With the spurt in urbanization and change in life styles, composition of garbage has also changed. As the density of population has increased, which brought in its wake a rise in garbage quantity. Increasingly, the municipal authorities are unable to perform their old job of collecting the garbage and disposing it by burning at a central place. Modern day consumerism has also changed the composition of the garbage.
Automobile Pollution
Automobile density has increased tremendously in the past five years along with the unplanned growth of the city. In addition to public transport and surpassing its growth rate, every other type of personalized vehicle number rose sharply. Linear growth along the main roads is one of the major factors for this exponential increase in automobiles. Estimates show that there are nearly 6 lakhs of different categories of vehicles out of which nearly four lakhs are two wheelers and one-lakh cars. On an average daily 11-lakh liters of petrol is consumed. It is beyond one’s imagination as to how much amount of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone (indirectly); lead and monocarbons are released into the atmosphere due to this consumption. Of these emissions, carbon monoxide is the most hazardous. Most of the respiratory and heart diseases can safely be attributed to this foul urban air. The most vulnerable sections are: children, the elderly. Asthmatic, policemen, roadside vendors, mechanics, etc.

Most of the administrative actions are disjointed and fragmented. There is a wide public gap in the management, planning or foresight. Governmental actions are based on outright political considerations or deficit data. The concept of town planning has been long back forgotten.

Successive industrial policies favored a `clustered’ approach to industrialization, further strengthening these factors. Countrywide, cities like Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi, Madras and Bangalore, in that order, took the brunt of this demographic shift until the mid-80s. But overall this growth rate has been slowing down due to varied factors such as deteriorating infrastructure, environmental degradation, inner city decay, costly living conditions and neighborhood collapse.

In contrast to this trend, Hyderabad has become the new boom city in the past decade. Founded by Mohammed Quli Qutub Shah on the southern banks of the Musi River, Hyderabad was a model habitat in its heyday. All its seven rulers, before Independence, were learned men and great builders. The city was noted for its mosques and minarets, bazaars and bridges, hills, lakes and baghs and roads. But, presently, Hyderabad lost its old world charm and beauty.

Urban Environmental Planning
It can be easily understood that urban problems cannot be approached in isolation. Urban chaos, basically, arises out of lack of planning, piece-meal approach, confusion of objectives, etc. It is high time to diagnose the present status, which might help in charting a better future course. Development of tools, which would enable an accurate diagnosis of the problems, constitutes an important step in planning.

With haphazard, and faster spread of the urban sprawl, situations are becoming increasingly complex. Policy-making structures have been hamstrung by lack of regular, reliable, proper and authentic information. The present issues of urban and environmental management demand more and detailed information. Most of these relate to the location and geological distribution of industries, houses, offices, infrastructure, etc., basically in relation with the natural resources. The simplest and most basic tool is creating a spatial map, to enable a broader understanding of the ground realities, more than anything else.

Realising this, Centre for Resource Education initiated a project on spatial mapping of industrial estates. The objective is to ‘cluster’ the industries into groups based on the type of process and end products. Further, the exercise includes mapping of the effluent water streams, sewage streams and their various joining points to the natural streams. This map will be layered, which deal with various parameters like contribution to pollution, environmental impact, monitoring points, and establishing pollution loads.

A series of spatial maps, of industrial estates and other ‘grey’ zones would enable the process of determining the major pollutants, their ‘load’ on specific environments and lead to the establishment of the cause and effect analysis for mitigating pollution. This approach can further be qualified by employing tools like GIS. However, the linkage of real time physical data to GIS and precautions for incorporating correct data would come much later. These tools could become the basis for economy-based policy prescriptions, in line with the polluter’s pays principle. It would help in achieving equity and justice in the determination of pollution caused by individual industry. This is important considering the ‘leaning’ of regulatory authorities on tiny, small and medium industries to achieve their targets.

With the cooperation of Jeedimetla Industries Association, Jeedimetla Effluent treatment Ltd., and the AP Pollution control Board, Centre for Resource Education has developed a spatial map of Jeedimetla industrial estate. This map was developed to fix monitoring points for identifying the extent of pollution by analyzing specific parameters related to chemicals used and products made by industries located in the proximity of the monitoring points, and to prepare an action plan for clean up. A unique cooperative effort between industries, regulatory bodies and NGOs in India, this is further being continued to study individual industrial processes (waste audit et al).

Presently, Centre for Resource Education on its own is developing spatial maps for other industrial estates. These maps once developed would be useful tools for long term monitoring of environmental pollution and ecological degradation, as well as help in developing credible information sources for possible policy interventions.