Hyderabad: The Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) is yet to conduct a survey of the heritage Khajaguda rock despite the tender being approved for the same being approved in April itself. In the mean time, a fence has come up on one side of the site, which has alarmed activists who are fighting to save the rocks from private encroachments.
The Khajaguda rock site’s much-needed survey has been mired in paperwork and bureaucratic holdup. The ancient rock site is supposed to be a protected site, but officials have been dragging their feet over the issue of its protection, in spite of a spate of protests that were held there by locals earlier this year.
On April 28, a tender for survey and barbed wire fencing of the whole hill was approved by the HMDA. The tender provides three months of time for the completion of work. However, the progress as of almost 40 days later is only the drafting of an agreement with a contractor.
The need for a survey was rekindled recently as a fence came up on the site on the edge of neighbouring private properties. It is unclear if the fence is on private, or public land, said activists.
Ritwik Reddy, a member of Save Khajaguda Rocks, says that until a survey is done, it cannot be determined if the fence is on public land. If the fence was was to be extended, it will be occcupying public land, he said.
A HMDA official in charge of the project, speaking to Siasat.com, say that they are waiting on permission from the Director of Survey and Land Records. “We will begin planning the survey from Tuesday (June 14th) upon receiving details from the director,” he said. He further added that thesurvey will begin “very soon” as they are under pressure from their higher-ups.
Previously, illegal activities have been carried out at the site under the HMDA’s eye. The Anantha Padmanabha Swamy temple trust, which is situated to one side of the area, had built a temple that they later tore down on account of ‘bad vaastu.’ Recently, they declared that they had HMDA’s permission to rebuild a bigger temple on one acre of land.
Hyderabad: FIR against 4 for destruction at Khajaguda rock site
In February, the temple trust started the construction of a borewell, causing significant damage at the heritage rock site.
Following this, the Telangana government suspended a Village Revenue Assistant (VRA) after it was found that four persons had encroached and destroyed rocks at the historic Khajaguda rock site. FIRs were filed against them, and MAUD special secretary Arvind Kumar said that six security guards would be placed at the site 24/7 to protect it.
The Telangana High Court in an order dated April 7, 2022, stated that no construction of any kind should be allowed in the protected heritage site of the Khajaguda Hills. However, the ruling isn’t being implemented and HMDA inspectors are unwilling to interfere with the temple issue.
Representatives of Hyderabad’s rock climbing community and trekking clubs appealed to minister KTR to intervene immediately to instruct the conservator of forests and coordinate with the GHMC, HMDA, and Rangareddy district collector to stop all further encroachment work. They asked him to constitute a high level committee for investigating the role of local MRO of Gandipet and Forest Conservator of Ranga Reddy.
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.
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.
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.