Hyderabad: Rocks being drilled at Khajaguda Hills despite HC order, say activists

Telangana High court's order dating back to 4/06/2019 gave a verdict that the Khajaguda rocks should not be disturbed, damaged, or destroyed.

Hyderabad: Fakhruddin Gutta, popularly known as Khajaguda Hills which is a protected heritage site immensely loved and visited by trekkers, rock climbers, walkers, and Naturalists for more than a decade is now being drilled and destroyed for the purpose of ‘development’ and is 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, thereby providing 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.

A Twitter page @savekhajaguda run by activists has led the charge against the drilling by putting out an SOS call on the platform and the official Twitter handles of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, MA&UD Minister KT Rama Rao, and GHMC Commissioner were tagged along with the post.

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Telangana High Court’s order dating back to 4/06/2019 gave a verdict that the Khajaguda rocks should not be disturbed, damaged, or destroyed.

When Siasat.com contacted Raidurgam Police station for a comment, G Saidulu, the Sub-inspector of Police said that they are aware of the complaint but cannot act on it because it’s the responsibility of the revenue and the Municipal authorities to handle it. “The activists can approach the court because it comes under contempt of court,” he said when we told him about the HC order. But later, the Police arrived at the site during lunch hours and concluded that no drilling was happening even when drill bits were lying around the place, according to the activists.

We then called up the Gandipet Mandal Revenue Officer (MRO) for a response and he initially expressed ignorance regarding the drilling at the site. But after we sent him the video of the drilling, he sent a Revenue officer to Khajaguda, and then called us back saying that the drilling work was taken up by the Hyderabad Municipal Development Authority (HMDA) and not any private players. “We can’t do anything because it’s government work,” he said.

Activists that Siasat.com spoke to also said that without any clear demarcation taking place, there is no way of finding whether HMDA has crossed the legal boundaries and has entered the protected heritage space.

The Official Twitter handle of the Commissioner & Director of Municipal Administration-Telangana (CDMA) responded to the call of activists and heritage lovers and asked the Manikonda Municipality and Hyderabad regional director of municipal administration (RDMA) to inspect and take action.

The rock formations at Khajaguda, dating to several million years, are unique in several ways. Several cave
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.

In Hyderabad, the movement of water is additive: water moving through different places adds up and
moves in large quantities until it reaches a lake. The disruption of drainage systems in Hyderabad that had been formed over several years, has recently led to repeated instances of flooding and property damage. Now, with the water channels at Khajaguda disturbed, it is likely that the water will now find its way into the surrounding low-lying areas and flood both urban and rural settlements. (Source: Save Khajaguda, A Citizens’ Report on the Need to Protect Hyderabad’s Ecological Heritage)

In addition, the Khajaguda cave trail is of great religious importance to both Hindus and Muslims not just in Hyderabad but in the entire region. Extensive dumping of soil on the rock system could result in the inundation of nearby premium properties.

Over a hundred nature enthusiasts from different walks of life had gathered at Fakhruddin Gutta, popularly known as Khajaguda cave trail on Sunday to demand that the “mindless” construction and leveling work at the oldest site of well preserved natural heritage in Hyderabad be immediately stopped.

An online petition put out by ‘Society to Save rocks’ is trending online and is appealing to the various departments of the Government of Telangana to ‘Save Rocks of Khajaguda /Fakhruddingutta, Hyderabad, Telangana and also has the following demands:

1) To immediately stop the destruction of rocks at Fakhruddingutta

2) To include all the heritage rock formations listed as per previous G.O’S in the Telangana Heritage (Protection, Preservation, Conservation, and Maintenance) Act, 2017.

3) Develop Fakhruddingutta into a Rock, Nature, and Adventure Park for the citizens of Hyderabad.

Activists and heritage enthusiasts are also planning events to bring awareness regarding these invaluable rocks and thereby build pressure on the concerned authorities to act against the destruction.

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