Hyderabad’s metro blues


By T S Sudhir

This monsoon, an ornamental flake of the Charminar fell off. Good reason for concerned citizens to press the panic button. The 419-year-old monument, full of cracks and reduced to a resting place for security personnel camping to ensure communal peace in the Old city area, is admittedly in bad shape. The Archaelogical Survey of India (ASI) described it as a minor problem that will be fixed once the rainy season is over. But will this structure, raped by air and noise pollution every single minute, 365 days of the year, be another crumbling heritage structure of Hyderabad?

No, says well-known historian Safiullah. “The Charminar is structurally very strong and is built to withstand even an earthquake of 8 on the Richter scale. Yes, superficially it looks in a very sad state. It would of course, help if the area around the Charminar was made a no-traffic zone. But if the ASI gives the monument an acid wash, all the cracks will disappear,” he says reassuringly.

That’s some good news. Atleast the Charminar will not one day be replaced by a board, that will say `The Charminar stood here’.

Four km from the Charminar, Sultan Bazaar is likely to meet that fate. This is a 150-year-old market that was a shopping area for the British troops stationed at the Residency. This popular market may become part of history when Hyderabad metro becomes a reality.

All critics of the Hyderabad metro project heaved a sigh of relief when Ramalinga Raju’s ungentlemanly act derailed his son’s metro plans. But now the engine is catching steam once again in the hands of infrastructure giant L&T. Hyderabadis are concerned is that the Metro will cut the city’s umbilical chord with its past and heritage.

The Hyderabad chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) is articulating the citizens’ voice. Its convenor, P Anuradha Reddy, a fiesty lady whose family was associated with the old Hyderabad airport at Begumpet, that was started by the Nizam, says she is distressed that absolutely no concern has been paid to the aspect of heritage in the planning or routing of the alignments.

“The Metro runs through some core heritage areas and open spaces like the Assembly, Public Gardens, Mozzam Jahi Market, Sultan Bazar, Parade Grounds, Secunderabad Clock tower. Most of these structures are part of Nizam-time heritage of Hyderabad and it would be a pity if the city is to be defaced with elevated trains chugging along, adjacent to these buildings.”

In another four months, work will start on the Metro. Intach wants all alternatives to be explored before the grounding. “A public exhibition with detailed area wise plans and views of all stations and heritage zones should be immediately organized by the Hyderabad Metro Rail Limited and the feedback be incorporated to make this a citizen-friendly venture,” says Anuradha.

The Hyderabad Metro Rail website lists out in great detail the advantages of having a metro in the city. Like how the 14.78 km Secunderabad to Falaknuma stretch will be covered in 22 minutes as opposed to a road journey of 80 min. How with a frequency run of 3 to 5 minutes, the Metro can carry 14.76 lakh passengers every day in 2015 and 22 lakh by 2025.

Impressive figures yes. But if the experience of the Delhi metro is anything to go by, the upper middle class will still choose the steering wheel of its BMWs, Skodas and Mercs.

C Ramachandraiah of Citizens for Better Public Transport filed a PIL in the Andhra Pradesh High Court two years ago, opposing the project on grounds of noise pollution.

“In the silent zone category, the central pollution control board stipulates a maximum level of 50 decibels during day and 45 decibels at night. The Metro, according to the officials own admission, will generate a noise level of 85 decibels. And according to our survey, there are 320 spots along the routes which fall in the silent category,” he says.

A couple of years ago, a group of architects had organised a futuristic exhibition of photographs that showed how prime spots in Hyderabad will look once the Metro stops at an elevated station, at the height of the 3rd floor, every km. It would be an understatement to say the photographs were an eyesore.

Also when compared to Delhi that has much wider roads, Hyderabad’s present roads aren’t good enough even for the existing 28 lakh motorists. Will they be able to take the width of the metro as well? Look at some of the graphics that are on the Metro Rail’s website.

Those espousing the Metro’s cause argue, Metro is the way to go. Especially when almost every other city in the country is preparing to get on track. The Hyderabadi however, wants to know the fine print hidden in the big figures that scream 12000 crore rupees project, 71 km long, 66 stations, three lines.

Says Ramachandraiah, “For the last three years, we have been fighting to get information on the Hyderabad metro for the public. But no proper public consultation for the project was done.” Interestingly, the Metro rail website states `this page is being upgraded’ when you click on the FAQs (frequently asked questions) icon !

Hyderabad’s 80 lakh stakeholders have the right to know how the Metro will change their lives. For better or for the worse. After all, not everyone in the city is as strong as the Charminar.

(Please post your comment to tell us what you thought of this blog)

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About t s sudhir & uma sudhir

Uma Sudhir and T S Sudhir are senior journalists, based in Hyderabad. Both work for NDTV. Uma is a Tamilian, who was educated in
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6 Responses to Hyderabad’s metro blues

  1. sai kishore says:

    @sudhir,
    yeah i do agree with u.The people of Hyd,for god’s sake should be aware of the consequences they would face it metro project is approved.
    I personally feel that ; Given the circumstances,metro rail project should be stopped or atleast it’s plans need to be revamped so as to assure Hyd a better place to live.
    In this aspect,i request u(the media) to launch an awareness drive which enables govt to take concrete steps against this so called metro rail project.

  2. Shwetal says:

    I agree that every citizen has a right to know whats the face of the city going to be… but given my past expereince in Bangalore, I can say, for sure that these builders/developers dont care two hoots for the city’s heritage. Just look at how mercilessly they pulled down the boulevard on MG Road…. For the last 3 years, the most happening place in Bangalore has been every travellers and shoppers worst nightmare… we in Hyderabad need to brace ourselves for worse senarios.. 😦

  3. pramod says:

    The whole Metro Rail Project is a waste of public money – this is another real estate scam – only the player has changed.

    For example, even in a city like Delhi which usually has very wide roads, there are places where the Metro route has 60 feet wide roads – why is the governemnt and L&T hell-bent on 100 ft wide roads, if not for doing real estate business with forcefully acquired private land at dirt-cheap prices?

    If you look at Hitec City road, the road is full of sharp curves and 60 ft wide roads – there is an adjacent road from shilpa ramam to Road no. 36, which is a Staright Road and 120 ft wide, and goes through govt land – it is so easy for the govt to choose this route for the Metro Rail to pass through – instead, the GHMC is planning to forcibly acquire huge number of small private properties on hitec city road – this totally defies logic, and strengthens beliefs that this is all part of a huge Real Estate Scam

  4. Sudheer says:

    First things first – Hyderabad needs proper drainage/sewage lines… Metro for Hyderabad is a joke. Hyderabad is not a global city but a cluster of cess pools and haphazardly planned layouts.

  5. Sudheer says:

    Many roads in Hyderabad, Yosufguda, Road No:36, Nampalli, Sultaan bazaar all are all narrow.

    Technically if this metro project will see lot of cases of road-widening issues ahead. The Phase I of the metro is cleverly chosen from Miyapur to Khairatabad, which is more or less 100 feet except few stretches.

    The later phases of the project … there will be destruction in the name of acquiring land in the name of growth plan for the city.

  6. Sanghamitra Malik says:

    I like your story which was written sometime back. After that things have moved considerably. Pillars/piers are coming up at high speed. The HMR is very cleverly putting up a few pillars on the routes proposed by them at every place that many of us activists and citizens have a problem in the Metro rail being elevated. A whole chunk of SP Road has important heritage buildings, the view of which will be ruined. We also suggested that the Metro goes underground from Khairatabad till Moazamjahi market. This was what Dr Rajamani and others also suggested. Such a beautiful area between Rabindra Bharati and Nampally and also the area near the Moazamjahi Market will be ruined with those elevated structures running across the core city. I am most concerned about the areas in the old city after the Musi from where the authorities in the HMR are planning to have the route of the HMR. The entire area is dotted with heritage buildings. The character and the look of Hyderabad will be changed. I have no problem with the Metro rail per se but does anyone have the right to deface my beautiful and historical city not for better transport facilities for the citizens but only to serve the commercial interests of a few who have vested interests. The poor man’s MMTS is being neglected big time and the announcement of its second line appears to be only for the files. Charminar may not disappear anytime soon but will soon lose little bits of it out of total neglect and callousness as some authorities believe that lighting the structure from time to time without taking proper care is all that they need to do. Encroachments around the Hussain Sagar are going on merrily. It is not far before Hussain Sagar which in my childhood I really took to be a sagar, turns into Hyderabad’s famous Buddha Cross Roads! The saddest part is we the public for whom the Metro Rail is coming up have very little information about the Metro rail. We are neither told anything nor are our suggestions taken. Dictators are running the show!

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