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Defining the borders of the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, Hussain Sagar Lake forms a direct link between South India's past and present. The largest artificial lake in Asia, Hussain Sagar was built by Hazrat Hussain Shah Wali in 1562 to serve as a water supply for the two cities. A levee, called locally a bund, forms the dam across a tributary of the River Musi, creating a lake that was originally about 1360 acres. The lake served this growing area admirably for centuries as a water source, fishery and landmark. However, the very growth that Hussain Sagar facilitated has nearly become the cause of its demise. For Hussain Sagar faces challenges due to pollution, over-use and declining water supply. The two burgeoning cities along its shoreline have seen explosive growth with little to control encroachment, sewage or industrial waste draining into the lake. Efforts are now underway to remedy the situation.
During its long life, Hussain Sagar has become the centerpiece of cultural life and modern entertainment for Hyderabad. At least four sailing clubs call its shores home. The Hyderabad Sailing Week has been conducted here since 1984 when the first Laser boats (an Olympic class boat) were introduced by the Laser Class Association of India. Boat tours are a common activity for all visitors. In the 1990s, a 60-foot carved marble statue of the Gautam Buddha was erected on a mid-lake island called the Rock of Gibraltar. Boat tours bring visitors for a quick tour, or speedboats can be rented for a more leisurely viewing. The lake is a favorite for water sports such as power boating and para-sailing. Luxury launches offer tours on the lake. These tours are often a crowing touch to an event-filled day or weekend spent enjoying the many amusements and parks along the shoreline.
The lakeshore, particularly the levee area - called the Tank Bund - has been heavily developed into gardens, parks and entertainment venues. A series of 33 large bronze statues of historical and eminent personalities of Hyderabad State and the State of Andhra Pradesh are displayed on pedestals along the road. Saidanimaa tomb and mosque, also known as Sayedani Maa Tomb, are located at the north end of the levee. An Archeological Survey of India-declared heritage site, these unique lime and mortar tombs are beautifully carved and have marble inlay work on them, a spectacular display of Islamic architecture. On the side of the bund opposite the lake, a new indoor snow park allows visitors from this tropical area to enjoy sledding, tobogganing and skating. The Tank Bund has been widened and improved several times, with fountains featuring colored lights and landscaping to make the area a favored strolling path. A new 'necklace road' has been built to circle the rest of the lake and better connect the many cultural and entertainment venues around Hussain Sagar. National Highway 9 runs along the top of the Tank Bund.
Just south of the Tank Bund, Lumbini Park features a musical fountain, landscaped garden with floral clock, nature trail, and children's play area. The boating facility, one of the major attractions, extends to the middle of the lake. A multimedia show called Lumbini Laserium narrates Hyderabad's history through a laser display on a water screen. On the northern side of Hussain Sagar lake is Sanjeevaiah Park, featuring a rock garden and a variety of hybrid roses. Other parks around the lake include a children's park with playgrounds and miniature golf, and a park dedicated to Indira Gandhi where movies are often filmed.
The Hyderabad metropolitan area has a number of other sites of cultural interest to attract visitors. The Salar Jung Museum houses one of the largest one-person collections of antiques in the world and includes Persian carpets, Moghal miniatures, Chinese porcelain, Japanese lacquerware, famous statues and a variety of treasures from around the world. Ramoji Film City, on the outskirts of Hyderabad, offers facilities to produce any kind of movie. Visitors can take tours of the sets and facilities. Prasad's IMAX, India's third IMAX Theatre, is located in the heart of the city on the banks of Hussain Sagar Lake. The beautiful Andhra Pradesh Secretariat buildings and the Char Minar with its minarets attract sightseers as does the 13th century Golkonda Fort (sometimes spelled Golconda) just outside of the city. And Hussain Sagar is an important focal point of the annual Ganesh Nimajjanam, a festival celebrating Lord Ganesh. The culmination of the 10-day event is the immersion of small statues of the Lord Ganish in the waters of the Hussain Sagar. This immersion has actually become one of the factors contributing to declining water quality.
Hussain Sagar was once a healthy fishery and drinking water supply. Unfortunately, the few incoming streams have become contaminated with storm run-off, sewage and industrial wastes. The amount of inflowing water has also been reduced, causing Hussain Sager to shrink down to less than 900 acres and silt to diminish its former depth. Most commercially viable fish are gone, and massive die-offs have horrified the local population on more than one occasion. A form of carp introduced into the lake to eat moss growing on the bottom were soon removed by illegal fishing. Although waste treatment facilities have improved, many unauthorized sources of pollution still drain into the inflowing streams and ditches. Government and environmental groups have been working to improve water quality, but all too often local business does not cooperate fully.
Recent testing found that the annual Immersion of the Lord Ganesh statues was causing heavy metal indexes to rise. It was found that instead of the traditional clay statues, more of the faithful were buying the cheaper plaster of Paris statues which contain metals such as lead. The gilded paints used to decorate them are also high in metallic compounds. Efforts to both remove the residue left by the statues and educate the worshipers to use clay statues is expected to improve water quality in the future. Some dredging of sediments is being done with money provided by world environmental organizations. Aeration fountains were recently installed. Now that the situation has gained the attention of environmental groups, pressure on the Indian government has increased to take more definite action, and improvement is being seen.
Hussain Sagar is still a beautiful lake. The vista at night with the lighted fountains, the many lights around the Necklace Road, and the attractions that operate late into the evening make a lakeside stroll worth a visit. Hyderabad is known for shopping, particularly for pearls. Many restaurants and shops around the lake cater to tourists and religious pilgrims. Lodgings are plentiful, as Hyderabad is also a well-known industrial center and gets many business visitors. All types of rentals can be found including short-term rental apartments, but the large chain hotels are often the most reliable in terms of services and amenities. Many resorts, including spa resorts can be found lakefront and within sight of the shore. Real estate is also available but somewhat complicated for foreign investors to purchase. Trains run daily to as far away as Mumbai on the Arabian Sea. Hyderabad and Hussain Sagar Lake are inviting and accessible. Make a visit soon - and plan on shopping for pearls!
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