Civic Issues

Bengaluru’s civic body, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), may have once again started work on the 80-feet road encroaching on the Pattandur Agarahara Lake, earning citizen’s ire.

By doing so, the BBMP is violating the National Green Tribunal’s orders. The lake falls under the jurisdiction of the KR Puram tahsildar.

Last year, due to this encroachment, residents suffered in the monsoons.

“On Wednesday, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) workers began digging up roads. When we enquired, we realised that they were diverting the storm water drain through which water flows into the lake. Within a day, the diversion work was complete,” said Sandeep Anirudhan, a citizen activist, who is a part of Save Pattandur Agarahara Lake project.

The rajakaluve begins from D’Silva Layout in Whitefield and the water it contains eventually flows into Pattandur Agrahara Lake.

“Last year, Bengaluru came to a standstill during the monsoons because the rajakaluves were encroached on or were diverted to underground chambers, where the width of the pipes was not enough to carry all the water,” Sandeep added.

According to the revenue map, the storm water drain begins at D’Silva Layout, which is on a higher plain, and runs up to the lake, which is on a lower level. Water rajakaluve, which the BWSSB diverted, flows from D’Silva Layout and now that the storm water drain has been diverted, there are high chances of waterlogging, residents allege.

“What is the BWSSB thinking? They don’t have time to construct a proper sewage network in the city, but can illegally divert a storm water drain within a day. This is horrible,” Sandeep said.

When did the encroachment of Pattandur Agrahara Lake begin and why?

The revised master plan 2015 had proposed a new link road to cut across Whitefield. This was supposed to be a link road from Varthur Kodi Main Road to ITPL Main Road. The proposed road has already resulted in the chopping of 140 trees and will also cut through an orphanage, the Pattandur Agrahara Lake, two schools – St Joseph’s Convent School and Holy Cross School – and a few private properties.

“There are several arterial roads which can connect these two roads, and still the BBMP is not answering any of our questions as to why this road is required. The reason is becoming apparent now. If this road comes up, the lake will be declared dead. Since the road is going to be 80-ft wide, this means that high-rises can come up too,” Sandeep alleged.

In October 2017, the BBMP had axed over 100 trees in the lake’s buffer zone overnight. Angry residents had formed a human chain and protested against the BBMP, demanding that the road works be stopped.

According to the local corporator S Muniswamy, the project was approved by the Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA), which is the lake’s custodian, in 2015.

“The road was a part of BDA’s Comprehensive Development Plan for the city. I have been trying to ensure that the school, orphanage and lake are not affected. Some landowners have agreed to the land acquisition and others have not. This is a government project and as a corporator, some things are out of my hands,” Muniswamy said.

Azam, a resident of the area, who had filed an RTI on the encroachment a month ago, finally received a reply a few days ago. “The corporator says that it is a state government-approved project, but the RTI reply says that the project does not require Cabinet approval. What is this? How can a project named in the RMP 2015 not require Cabinet approval?” Azam asked.

Residents alleged that the local MLA, Aravind Limbavali, had, in December last year, met residents who had complained about the project.

“In July 2017, when there was a massive protest, the MLA had said that the project will be stopped. In December 2017, when he met all of us, he rallied for the road and said that it is necessary to curb traffic. How can this be? All roads in this area are 15-ft roads. This is entirely a residential area. If an 80-ft road comes here, then it will lead to traffic congestions as all other roads in the area are small and not enough to withstand the traffic flow. What are BBMP and BDA thinking?” Santosh, another citizen activist, said.

In November 2017, the BBMP dumped truckloads of debris into the lake and flattened the lake bed. Several concerned residents had clicked photographs of the activity and submitted it to the local BBMP ward office.

“The BBMP told us that the BDA was the concerned authority to speak to. On November 27, 2017, the BDA passed an order telling the BBMP to stop dumping debris in the lake,” Sandeep added.

According to the BDA order, which TNM accessed, the BDA had directed the KR Puram tahsildar’s office to survey the land and the lake area.

“Regarding the dumping of debris and garbage in Pattandur Agrahara Lake, the office has requested to provide details of the boundaries of the lake as it has become a burning issue. The office (tahsildar’s office) is requested to install a chain-link fence around the lake to avoid debris dumping,” the BDA order reads.

Residents allege that the works began once again in January this year, where 40 more trees were razed by the BBMP. “Usually, the works were carried out at night, but now they are doing it in broad daylight. We had visited the tahsildar’s office and requested him (Tejas Kumar) to conduct the survey and demarcate the lake land, but he kept evading us,” Santosh added.

With the BBMP, BDA and BWSSB officials turning a deaf ear to the residents’ protest, the citizens found another platform to voice their concerns. They submitted their objections to the construction of the road when the draft of the Revised Master Plan 2031 was out for public consultation.

“The BDA showed us the RMP 2031 and said that there was no road marked in the draft and, hence, the objection made no sense. The problem here is that they can tweak the master plan at any stage. This is a way to cover up violations,” Sandeep alleged.

Last week, Tejas was transferred as tahsildar and Ramakrishnaiah was made the new tahsildar of KR Puram. “He has agreed to conduct the survey, but till now nothing has been done,” Sandeep said.

When TNM contacted the Bengaluru Mayor Sampath Raj, he said that BWSSB had been asked to stop the construction. However, the order came a little too late as the diversion of the storm water drain had already been completed.

When contacted, BDA Engineer Mallikarjun said that the BBMP had been instructed to stop the work until the lake land had been demarcated.

“I am not in charge of this project. You should contact the concerned person. I don’t know what you are talking about. Please file an RTI if you want more information,” said BBMP Executive Engineer (Mahadevapura Zone) Jayashankar Reddy.