Why Hyderabad’s Musi river needs a helping hand
A team of 18 workers physically shove the filth dumped in Musi river forward
Except for a few days in a year during the monsoon, Hyderabad’s Musi river cannot flow on its own. On Friday, when a group of students came to see the Musi riverfront as part of a heritage walk, they were surprised to see men standing in knee-deep water trying to push and shove garbage in the river.
“Why are they pushing the plastic bags? Doesn’t the water flow?” asked one curious girl.
“The water used to flow, but after they built this rubber dam near the High Court building, the water stagnates and slows down, leading to pools where mosquitoes breed,” said Gowlikar Ram, one of the workers from the Entomology Department of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), tasked with ensuring the flow of water.
Every day, except on holidays and Sundays, Ram and his colleague K. Srinivas strip down to their inner wear, wear their work jacket, and get into the dark, fetid water. “This is our job. We are a team of 18 members. While 14 of us work on the 8 km stretch of the river from Purana Pul to Dilsukhnagar, four others spray disinfectants to control the mosquito population,” Mr. Ram said.
The duo pushes a few plants into the water, and sometimes they fish out plastic packets. A majority of them are filled with the organic waste of puja offerings, including mango leaves, coconuts and flowers. Most of them are thrown into the water upstream at Tipu Khan bridge, Attapur, Purana Pul and Mussalam Jung bridge.
“There are broken glass pieces, thorns, and rocks which scrape and cut our bodies. Carcasses of dogs and pigs also float by and we have to manage them,” said Mr. Ram, who has a bath for an hour to get rid of the odour from his body. “But it still sticks to you, and there is a constant itch,” he said.
The rubber dam was completed in 2009 at a cost of ₹5.64 crore. It was expected to hold enough water to flood the area behind it and recreate the magic of a river filled with water. Instead, a conflict with local residents, the washermen community, and the civic body turned it into a festering mess.
No aquatic life
“If it was clean water that was stagnant, there would be no problem. There is no aquatic life here. Now the water stagnates at multiple locations, and it becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Then people complain to us. This is the only solution now,” said a senior official of the GHMC.
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