Saroor Nagar lake
Andhra Pradesh

Hyderabad has a glorious tradition of tanks built by its ruling dynasties. It owes its many lakes—that stored and supplied water for drinking and irrigation to its citizens—to the Qutab Shahi (1564-1724AD) and the Asaf Jahi (1724-1948 AD) rulers. The first of these was Hussain Sagar, built on a tributary of the Musi River in 1562. Later, more tanks were constructed to handle floods and to cater to the city’ growing population. The city of lakes had about 532 tanks and kuntas (percolation tanks) within a radius of 35 kilometers. Thus the science of rainwater harvesting using water bodies is ancient in this region. However the recent trends had been that of systematic killing of lakes. Tanks (lakes) are getting converted into residential colonies with the consent of government. For instance, a slum sprang up at Mir Jalap tank and an affluent residential colony came up in the lakebed of Masaabcheruvu. But, it was the destruction of Saroornagar that led to the genesis of ‘Save Lakes Campaign” by PRAKRITI, a group of environmentalists, in September 1999. Originally spread over 65 ha the lake is reduced to 25.41 ha at present. Denudation of the catchment area and discharge of untreated sewage into the Saroornagar Lake were endangering its very existence.

A greater threat to the lake’s existence had come on October 22, 1984, when the government of Andhra Pradesh issued orders for the ‘abandonment of the lake’ by depleting the tank level from 31 meters (m) to 29 m to facilitate development of residential colonies in the exposed peripheral areas. However after four years, the Municipal Corporation passed a unanimous resolution to counter the government order and protect the lake at any cost. Meanwhile two major fish kills were reported in October 1999. The Madannapet fisherman’s society reported the matter to Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (APPCB), who assigned the cause of this incidence to eutrophication caused by a drain entering the lake. The storm water drains in the upper catchment areas of Saroornagar Lake were filled with silt and occupied by people, endangering the lives of people living down stream.

All these facts were presented before the authorities with a request to prevent the lake being used as a garbage dump yard; divert the sewage drains entering the lake; demarcate the lake boundaries; remove encroachments and undertake plantation in the periphery. On numerous occasions irrigation officials, with the support of local police, attempted to open the old pucca bund to reduce the water in the lake. With the support from the local media and citizens, fisher folks and activists of the movement stalled these moves. But the threat to the existence of this lake persisted. Appraising the Chief Minister and the Minister for Environment and Forests on these issues yielded no results.


In August 1995, KL Vyas, convener of the ‘Save the Lake Campaign’, launched by the Society for the Preservation of Environment and Quality of Life, filed public interest litigation (PIL) in the Andhra Pradesh High Court (HC), against the Government of Andhra Pradesh, seeking protection of 170 lakes in Hyderabad. The Hyderabad Urban Development Authority had identified these lakes as water bodies covering over 10 hectares (ha) of land. While the PIL encompassed all these lakes that were under threat, its attention was focused on the Saroornagar Lake that was under severe stress due to large-scale encroachment on its catchment area and alarming level of pollution.


This case (W.P. 21676 of 1995) has been settled in the Andhra Pradesh High Court at Hyderabad. The followings are some of the highlights:

Acting on a petition, the honorable justice C V N Shastry directed the government departments to protect all water bodies around the city

Again, on the same petition, a bench comprising of M N Rao and Rajgopal Rao directed the state government to appoint Environment Protection Training and Research Institute (EPTRI), Hyderabad to prepare an action plan for the protection of Saroornagar Lake.

The report was submitted by EPTRI and restoration work has already begun. EPTRI is now striving to protect, conserve and renovate all the other 170 lakes around the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secundrabad. Later the jurisdiction of the order was extended to include the protection of all the water bodies in the state of Andhra Pradesh. About 90 per cent of these lakes are located in the rural areas.

The government asked Hyderabad Urban Development Corporation to execute the plan.

Till date 14 lakes have been already conserved. The rest of the lakes are being restored by HUDA in two phases. In the first phase 87 lakes and in the second phase 83 lakes are to be conserved.