The Karnataka Lokayukta has expressed displeasure at the city authorities’ lackadaisical attitude when it comes to lakes, and has directed two government bodies to take immediate action regarding two lakes in the city, at the Lokayukta hearings in Bengaluru on Thursday.
A citizen’s group ‘United Bengaluru’, which is led by HS Doreswamy, an activist and journalist, filed a case with the Lokayukta in 2017 regarding the state of Bengaluru’s lakes and their rejuvenation. United Bengaluru comes under the Namma Bengaluru Foundation.
The group had independently undertaken several surveys and found irregularities in many prominent lakes in the city, which prompted legal action. Subsequently, the suit was split into several cases to deal with each lake’s issue individually.
The Subramanyapura lake in South Bengaluru was one of the lakes which came under the notice of United Bengaluru. The lake, which is situated close to JP Nagar, had several encroachments by the urban poor, who had set up shanties all over the lakebed and encroached the lake, activists say. The Karnataka Slum Development authority was directed to give them housing and clear the encroachments.
Ninety-nine apartments were built for the encroachers in 2017, but they are yet to be occupied, despite an order to this effect having been passed on September 27 this year. However, the residents complain that the electricity and water connections have not been made. The Lokayukta took strong exception to this, and directed the Karnataka Slum Development Authority to clear the encroachments within the week, or face criminal action.
Another lake, Talghattapura, also situated in South Bengaluru after the Turahalli forest, has been encroached by the local real estate mafia, according to the survey done by United Bengaluru. The Lokayukta directed the Tahsildar of the area to evict the offending parties, based on a report filed by the DDLR (Deputy Director of Land Records) Ms Kusumalatha G, under the Revenue department. However, during the hearing, United Bengaluru noticed that the survey, which was submitted by the Revenue Department, was actually excerpts from an older survey, the 2017 Koliwada Committee report, a lake committee constituted by the Karnataka Assembly to assess lakes in Bengaluru.
The Lokayukta has ordered that the DDLR submit a fresh report on February 15, next year, while responding to all the objections raised by United Bengaluru.
Harish Kumar, General Manager, Namma Bengaluru Foundation responded to these proceedings, saying that “…this raises the question of the accountability of officers to their duties, and the transparency in how they operate. The government needs to fix these two things immediately by making amendments to the Karnataka State Civil Service Act and its Rules”. Meanwhile, several other lakes in Bangalore are waiting for justice, with 21 other lake’s cases pending with the Lokayukta, filed by United Bengaluru.