Hyderabad: HMDA begins survey of Khajaguda rocks for fencing

Hyderabad: The civic authorities have finally begun surveying the Khajaguda heritage rock site, to figure out its boundary. The Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) in all likelihood will fence the site, which saw various encroachments (drilling/construction works) by local builders damage the historic site.

A senior HMDA official confirmed to Siasat.com that consultants have been engaged to demarcate the Khajaguda rock site, after which appropriate action will be taken to protect the site. “The work will take a few weeks at least to complete. We have been asked to complete the survey. After the report is submitted, we will approve it,” he added.

Since January, activists and rock climbers from the city have been up in arms against local builders and other encroachers for destroying ancient rocks at the Khajaguda site. Protests were held after which the issue came to prominence, following which state IT minister KT Rama Rao directed officials to look into the issue.

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More recently, last month, in spite of protests, the Anantha Padmanabha Swamy temple trust (which is near the Khajaguda rocks on one end of it) started the construction of a borewell on February 25, resulting in more destruction at the Khajaguda heritage rock site. While the Narsingi police stopped the illegal drilling, a lot of damage had been done.

Aside from that, local builders also seem to have been dumping sand on the site, altering the entire topography of the Khajaguda site. All this transpired in spite of an interim order by the Telangana High Court asking the state government to protect and ensure that no other changes are made at the heritage site.

Soil dumped at one of the points at the Khajaguda rock site. (Photo: Yunus Y. Lasania)

Given the dire situation, activists then set up display boards in English and Telugu at the site citing the Telangana High Court’s from order from 2019. When the activists were in the process of placing the boards at locations that were prone to destruction in the past, the temple authorities questioned them. Heated conversations followed for close to an hour. 

What are Khajaguda Rocks?

Fakhruddin Gutta, popularly known as Khajaguda Hills, is a protected heritage site immensely loved and visited by trekkers, rock climbers, walkers, and others. However, for more than a decade, the place has been witnessing drilling and destruction for the purpose of ‘development’, which is now being met with resistance from activists and various citizen groups.

The site with rocks dating to several million years is located in Nanakramguda and is just a 20-minute drive from the Amazon Hyderabad campus and the Indian School of Business (ISB) in Gachibowli. It provides a green lung space amidst the hectic, concrete-filled IT corridor. It is also the location of the Hyderabad Climbing Championship that is gaining recognition across the country.

The rock formations at Khajaguda, dating to several million years, are unique in several ways. Several caves systems in Telangana are not formed by the movement of water, but by the gradual weathering and breaking away of granite in hillocks.

The largest of these open cave formations in the region are found at Khajaguda. Besides the unique open cave system, there are also projections at Khajaguda that are important for their geological and aesthetic value. The geological term for these projections is Castle Koppies, Kopje, or Tors, better known locally as the ‘sandwich rock.’ These, too, are the largest of their kind to be found in the region, cannot be found anywhere else.

The forest patch at Khajaguda is home to several species of plants, that just like the rock formations, are difficult to find near Hyderabad. The Nyctanthes arbor-tristis, popularly known as the parijata or the night-flowering jasmine, is found in abundance at Khajaguda (there are three national parks around Hyderabad and the Parijata cannot be found in any of these three parks).

The other important plant species at Khajaguda is the Helicteres isora, also known as the Indian Screw Tree. These trees have not been recorded by the Botanical Survey of India in any areas around Hyderabad. Khajaguda is the only place where these can be found.

Several species of these plants and trees have been lost in Khajaguda over the last few years. In 2020, over 100 trees, which include Neem, Indian Laburnum, Sitaphal, and many more. In January 2022 alone, 80 trees were lost as the soil was dumped in different places and trees were felled under the guise of a plantation drive.

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