Amidst state apathy, MS Maqtha’s residents die of polluted water

Hyderabad: Rasool, a resident of MS Maqtha, the slum opposite Raj Bhavan road, pulls up his lungi and points to the contaminated water coating the tar road which was laid ages ago. “The impure water killed my wife,” he says with a heavy heart.

Rasool and other residents stand in contaminated water.

Like Rasool, several other residents of MS Maqtha have reportedly lost their loved ones due to water contamination. The last seven years have witnessed 12 deaths as a result of either malaria or dengue. This year alone two people died, said residents. Sheik Abdul Khader and his wife, Rehana Begum who live there also angrily said that despite repeated pleas, no officer of the government seems to care.

Vegetable vendor struggles in battered lanes.

The entire slum has been dealing with contaminated water, pooling the streets as a result of faulty drainage. “The problem is fairly old,” remarked Mohd Taj, an auto-driver living in the area. “The drainage pipes are over twenty to thirty years old and the 200 mm pipe installed beneath the drain isn’t enough to prevent the water from glazing the streets,” he added.

MS Education Academy

The floods of 2020 in MS Maqtha:

This isn’t the first time Hyderabad has dealt with drainage problems. In October 2020 floods, people in low lying areas of the city suffered loss of life and property. As Taj informed Siasat.com, “People in Maqtha suffered heavily when floods occurred. Our houses were flooded and people lost their refrigerators.”

“Ghar main jo bhi ration tha, usme paani aagaya. Toh fekna pada. Ab kya hi kare (Whatever ration was home, had to be thrown away because water corrupted it. Now what is one to do?),” he added

Taj also said that the water in their homes is not clean enough to bathe in. “Jinke pass paise hain, who filter paani khareedte hain,” says Taj. (The ones who afford it buy water.)

For context, Mohd Taj spends around Rs 2000 on drinking water every month.

What is the drainage problem?

As Khader explains to this reporter, the contaminated water from Maqtha, goes to the pump house, gets “filtered” and then is let-off over Necklace road and eventually reaches Hussain Sagar. Various slums across the city, owing to no fault of their own, thus contribute to the contamination in Hussain Sagar which explains the odour emanating from there.

As Khader further remarks, “The municipality workers use a motor when water levels in the street increase and pump the water out to dump it in the lake. Insaan toh kya, Hussain sagar ka paani koi janwar bhi nai pee sakta (Forget humans, no animal can drink the Hussain Sagar water),” he adds.

Cremations:

Shockingly, the drainage issue significantly affects death and cremations. There isn’t even access to clean water to cleanse the body of the recently deceased before other cremation rituals are carried out.

As Khader states, “Each time there is a death in the locality, we request the mosque nearby (Masjid-e-Ansar) to allow us to wash bodies. We cannot use the water in our homes, as that too is impure. The masjid let us wash the bodies of the two people who died this year but that too is a temporary solution.”

Appeals to the government:

Despite repeated pleas and petitions, the local leaders seem to have turned a blind eye to the issue.

In March 2018, the community (with forty signatories) wrote to erstwhile BJP MLA C. Ramchandra Reddy from Khairatabad, to resolve the issue but aside from Reddy writing to the general manager of the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB). The problem never got resolved.

Letter from MLA Ramchandra Reddy to HMWSSB General Manager

The residents wrote to (and met with) Khairtabad MLA from TRS Danam Nagender and GHMC Corporator Vijaya Lakshmi, who inspected the area to address their issue. While the MLA issued a detailed plan to replace the 200mm sewer line with 300mm to avoid overflows and chokages amounting to 43 lakhs, the plan was never carried out. As a result, the community continues to suffer from water-borne ailments, deaths, flooding during rains among a host of other issues.

Resolution:

When contacted about the same HMWSSB general manager for Division six, Hari Shanker informed Siasat.com that an engineering team will be sent to survey the issue in a couple of days. However, MS Maqtha’s residents remain skeptical.

Mohd Taj while speaking about his difficulties, stated that on a regular basis, he has to deal with rashes on his arms. “Khuji hote rahti haath main. Par ab ghar chodke to jaa nai sakte na,” (My arms keep itching but one cannot leave their house now, can they?)

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