In a boost to civic activism in Bengaluru, members of the Save Sarjapur Lakes group have saved a rajakaluve or stormwater drain (SWD), which was being encroached upon to construct a road. The road connecting the Sarjapur Road and Dommasandra Market was being built by the local panchayat, allegedly due to favour the developer of a nearby property.
The SWD off Yamare lake, which acts as a feeder to Sarjapur Doddakere, the largest lake in the region. However, the Yamare panchayat, in collusion with the builder, wanted to build the road so that they can access Sarjapur Main Road.
The sustained pressure of the activists and approaching several government officials have paid off - the SWD is getting widened, instead of getting choked.
Raicy Matthew, one of the activists, said, â€śThe rajakaluve was almost blocked as mud was being dumped on it. Since March, we have been trying to get media attention on the issue and approached different departments and also the Chief Secretary, which finally put pressure on the panchayat.â€ť
â€śNow officials of the Minor Irrigation Department have been widening the rajakaluve since the last two weeks,â€ť she added.
TNM had accessed the documents of the Yamaare panchayat, which shows Rs 50 lakh was sanctioned for the road. When the locals opposed, the panchayat members claimed that the road was already in existence according to the survey maps but had worn out recently.
However, what existed on the map was a 2-3 feet wide mud path, which the villagers used to cross from one end of the lake to the other.
Local activists, along with those who depend on the lake for water and the lakebed for grazing their cattle during the summer months, had organised protests in April against the panchayat.
At that time, speaking to TNM, Jairam, the Block Development Officer claimed that building the road would not affect the lake.
However, irrespective of the harm caused to the lake, construction within 75 metres of its periphery is illegal according to the National Green Tribunal guidelines.