When trucks arrived at Pattandur Agrahara Lake (Survey 54) area on Monday to dump mud for the proposed new link road from Varthur Kodi Main Road to ITPL Main Road, the truck drivers were in for a surprise. Local residents not only stopped the bewildered truck drivers, but also forced them to turn back and leave the area.
The residents, for the last few months, have been steadfastly opposing the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palaike's (BBMP) attempts to construct an 80-ft road connecting Varthur Kodi and ITPL in Pattandur Agrahara as they contend that it passes through the Pattandur Agrahara (Survey 54) lake bed area.
Sandeep Anirudhan , an activist from Whitefield, says that the land is part of the lake bed area which was filled with water until September of last year when dumping of mud began. Even today, there are small pools of water just metres away from the land where they want to build a road.
He also said that the area was completely filled with water around 40 years ago and is called Pattandur Agrahara village. However, residents in the area shifted from the area to another area behind ITPL. “The area behind ITPL where residents shifted to is referred to as the new Pattandur Agrahara village but this is as the locals remember it, the original Pattanadur Agrahara village ” explains Sandeep.
The residents have been trying to stop the construction of the road, but their efforts have, for the most part fallen on deaf ears. Several attempts by residents to engage the BBMP and the local political leaders to intervene in the matter failed.
Finally, on Saturday, they received a verbal commitment from the BBMP Commissioner, that it was unlawful to construct the road on the lake bed, says Sandeep Anirudhan, an activist and local resident.
However, on Monday morning, the trucks had come to dump the mud and debris.
"This morning as many as ten trucks came with debris, and later, two JCBs arrived and started levelling soil on the lake-bed area," Sandeep tells TNM.
Faced with no alternatives and the ominous prospect of losing the lake, residents and activists of Whitefield area have taken it upon themselves to be the lake’s watch dogs.
But while the residents are clear on where they stand, the BBMP has been see-sawing on what decision to take.
A BBMP official confirmed to TNM that a decision was taken on Monday to stop the dumping in the lake area. “While we have a work order to go ahead with the building of the road, we were told by higher officers yesterday to stop dumping of mud since citizens were protesting against it,” said Muniyappa, Assistant Engineer of BBMP at Kadugodi Ward.
But the mud that has already been dumped will not be removed, said Muniyappa – just another sign that the BBMP has not made up its mind.
A senior engineer at the BBMP meanwhile justified the project, and maintained that the road is being constructed outside of the lake bed area. Ramakrishna Reddy said, “The road is being constructed next to the lake bed and does not come in the lake bed itself. The BDA has marked and the government has given a tender for the road construction. We have asked a contractor to fill mud and level the place and we have given the permission ourselves. This is happening in private land given to us.”
Now, the residents are seeing some support from the political class. Rizwan Arshad, Congress Member of Legislative Council (MLC) has written to the Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA) to stop unchecked dumping and build a fence at the Pattandur Agrahara lake (Survey 54) area. The MLC’s letter comes after continued unchecked dumping by Bengaluru civic bodies was reported by citizen activists and residents living near the lake area last week.
“We have asked the BDA to fence the lake so that there is no dumping of waste or debris. After it came to my notice, I have written to the BDA. The government in its budget has taken up 100 lakes to be developed. In the first phase 40 lakes will be taken up and we have asked for this lake to be included in it so that it is preserved,” says Rizwan Arshad.
“This is the first time we have found support from a member of a political party. Other politicians are strangely silent when it comes to encroachment of lakes,” says Sandeep.