De­mo­li­tion city

Clear­ing en­croach­ments on storm wa­ter drains and lakes in Bengaluru is adding to the may­hem JIGYASA WATWANI | YELAHANKA, BENGALURU

Down to Earth - - CONTENTS -

ON THE morn­ing of Au­gust 31, V Kr­ishna of Bengaluru’s Doddabom­masan­dra lo­cal­ity tried to kill him­self be­cause the Bruhat Bengaluru Ma­hana­gara Pa­like ( bbmp) razed both his gar­ment shops to the ground ear­lier that month. He was one of the many who were left home­less and an­guished af­ter the civic body tore apart 15 shops and 22 houses in the lo­cal­ity as part of a de­mo­li­tion drive.

bbmp has been con­duct­ing a de­mo­li­tion drive since 2012, fol­low­ing a Kar­nataka High Court di­rec­tive and a state govern­ment or­der to clear en­croach­ments on storm wa­ter drains and lake beds in the city (see ‘Razed in the city’). But the drive ac­quired un­prece­dented mo­men­tum in the first week of Au­gust this year. Ex­treme rain­fall in the last week of July and sub­se­quent flood­ing awoke the state ex­ec­u­tive and ju­di­ciary.

On Au­gust 3, bbmp said en­croach­ments on nal­las, lakes and wa­ter bod­ies are the main rea­son for the floods, and ac­corded pri­or­ity to the re­moval of the en­croach­ments. “In the first phase of the drive, which will go on for the next three months, we will tar­get en­croach­ments on storm wa­ter drains. In the next, we will clear en­croach­ments on lakes and other com­mons (wa­ter bod­ies),” says K Sid­de­gowda, chief en­gi­neer, Storm Wa­ter Drain Depart­ment, bbmp. The in­ten­sity of the de­mo­li­tion drive this time can be guaged from the fact that in Au­gust alone bbmp de­mol­ished 237 en-

croach­ments in all eight zones of the city, whereas it had cleared only 822 of the 1,955 iden­ti­fied en­croach­ments in four years.

Con­ser­va­tion groups have wel­comed the new-found mo­men­tum, but they fear that the drive may lose steam as it is marred by con­fu­sion and com­mo­tion. “It has be­come more of a prob­lem than a so­lu­tion,” says V Ram­prasad of Bengaluru-based non-profit Friends of Lakes.

Un­sci­en­tific meth­ods

The prob­lem lies in the way bbmp iden­ti­fies storm wa­ter drains. Sid­de­gowda says his of­fi­cials use the 2015 Com­pre­hen­sive De­vel­op­ment Plan ( cdp) map of the city to iden­tify drains. If they do not see a chan­nel in wet­land or low-ly­ing ar­eas, they re­fer to village maps, pre­pared in 1905 and later up­dated in 1965.

But cdp is pri­mar­ily a plan­ning doc­u­ment with a fo­cus on land use—it des­ig­nates res­i­den­tial, com­mer­cial, in­dus­trial and green spa­ces but does not map them in their en­tirety. Be­sides, cdp maps are not geo­re­fer- enced. “cdp maps are pre­pared on the ba­sis of satel­lite im­agery, and so merely in­di­cate the align­ment and lo­ca­tion of storm wa­ter drains,” says V Ravichan­dar, a Ben­galu­rubased civic ac­tivist, who is also a mem­ber of a bbmp re­struc­tur­ing com­mit­tee.

“The village maps are more ac­cu­rate than cdp maps as they were geo­ref­er­enced us­ing the knowl­edge of those days,” Ravichan­dar says. But builders and res­i­dents ques­tion the prac­ti­cal­ity of us­ing these maps as the city’s hy­dro­log­i­cal land­scape has changed dra­mat­i­cally over the cen­tury.

Un­rea­son­able sanc­tions

bbmp’s de­mo­li­tion drive also faces crit­i­cism be­cause quite a hand­ful of en­croach­ers have the le­gal sanc­tion to re­side where they do. “I bought this land 40 years ago and built a house on it 15 years ago,” says R Prakash of Doddabom­ma­sun­dra. “I have the sale deed, the kaata or a rev­enue doc­u­ment, the proof of hav­ing paid prop­erty tax to bbmp and ap­proval of the con­struc­tion plan. Yet, bbmp de­mol­ished my house, say­ing there is a drain be­neath it.”

Like most of his neigh­bours, Prakash plans to sue the man who sold him the land and the bbmp en­gi­neer who ap­proved the con­struc­tion plan.

In fact, the drive ex­poses the al­leged role of govern­ment of­fi­cials in ap­prov­ing sev­eral hous­ing so­ci­eties on low-ly­ing ar­eas and giv­ing builders a free hand to change the nat­u­ral gra­di­ent of the re­gion.

Con­sider the Kodichikkana­halli lo­cal­ity near the Madi­wala lake. “The Ban­ga­lore De­vel­op­ment Author­ity should not have ap­proved the lay­out of Kodichikkana­halli. bbmp should not have sanc­tioned con­struc­tion plans of build­ings in the area,” says Ram­prasad. To­day, hous­ing so­ci­eties in the lo­cal­ity have mush­roomed on chan­nels that used to drain ex­cess rain­wa­ter. The lo­cal­ity got se­verely af­fected due to the re­cent floods. Clause 26(b) of the Kar­nataka Town and Coun­try Plan­ning Act says town plan­ning must make pro­vi­sions for fill­ing up low-ly­ing ar­eas. Small won­der, 98 per cent of the lakes in Bengaluru are en­croached by mafia, ac­cord­ing to a March 2016 study by T V Ra­machan­dra of Cen­tre for Eco­log­i­cal Sci­ences at the In­dian In­sti­tute of Sci­ence, Bengaluru. In many parts of the city, lay­out

237 struc­tures, which en­croached on storm wa­ter drains, were razed in a month by the Bruhat Bengaluru Ma­hana­gara Pa­like, across Bengaluru

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