Hyderabad: When Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah (fifth king of the Quli Qutb Shahi dynasty) decided to shift his capital outside the Golconda Fort and founded Hyderabad in 1591, the location was strategically chosen— to build a new city on the banks of the Musi river.

But in 1908, a heavy downpour resulted in Hyderabad witnessing devastating floods, killing thousands. The incident prompted Osman Ali Khan (1911-1948)), the seventh and last Nizam of the erstwhile state of Hyderabad, to construct the Osmansagar and Himayathsagar lakes in the first half of the 20th century, about 30 km away from the city, to check water from flowing into the river.

While that solved the flooding problem, it killed the river. Today Musi has become an cesspool that flows 57km across Hyderabad today, something that Osman Ali Khan probably would have never envisaged.

Today, anyone visiting the old city and other areas like Golconda cannot miss the stench, with the city’s sewerage being pumped into the Musi, which is a tributary of the Krishna river, the fourth biggest in India.

Now, for the first time in decades, after feeble earlier attempts to rejuvenate the Musi river, the Telangana government has drawn up a plan and hopes to revitalise the river by transforming it into a green space. It also plans to create a riverfront and an east-west corridor alongside to connect different parts of Hyderabad. The Musi River Development Corporation (MRDC) was created for that purpose more than a year ago by the government.

“We have called for designs by both Indian and international organisations which will be submitted by 6 July. The project will be taken up in three phases after which we will develop a model three-kilometer stretch in the Old City area of Hyderabad," said Arvind Kumar, managing director of MRDC. He added that sewerage water that presently flows in the Musi river will be treated at sewerage treatment plants (STP) at different points.

A major issue the state will face in the project is dealing with encroachments, including religious structures, which have come up in the riverbed area. Kumar said that a drone-survey has been done across the entire 57km length of the river. Illegal structures that have come up will be removed and people living in these areas will be rehabilitated.

“The riverbank will have urban forestry, cultural rejuvenation, tourism etc and we plan to start phase one (model stretch) by the end of December. Phase two will be to set up STPs, to do landscaping, build roads etc and phase three will add an year to complete the whole work, " Kumar said. The Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA), another state government body, has been entrusted with financial closure of the project.

The Musi river gets its names from two streams namely Moosa and Esi which converge at the Tipu Khan bridge in the Golconda area. The 57-km stretch begins from the Osmansagar and Himayathsagar lakes, cuts across Hyderabad at various places and ends near Gowrelli village in the adjoining Ranga Reddy district.

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