BY: Y Maheswara Reddy
Not long ago, several low-lying areas of
were inundated for many days, as a consequence of heavy and continuous rain. The shoddy state of storm water drains (SWDs) in the city were blamed, that is if they existed at all and were not encroached.
The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike is tasked with the construction, desilting and strengthening of SWDs to carry rainwater from the city to the nearest lake.
This case of brazen encroachment of land meant for the construction of a storm water drain in Devara Jeevanahalli can tell you why Bengaluru becomes the lake district, after just one heavy downpour.
According to a report submitted by the Survey Department to the court, 30 feet of land was reserved for the construction of a SWD. However, due to encroachment of the land meant for the SWD, the BBMP has now taken up construction of SWD by reducing its width to just six feet.
Though the survey report mentioned the encroachment of the SWD, the BBMP engineers have not taken measures to clear the encroachment before taking up construction work on the site. “Many houses in this area were inundated due to the heavy rains and lack of a SWD. We want the BBMP authorities to stop the ongoing work and increase the width of the SWD to its actual size (30 ft) so as to ensure that no rain water enters houses whenever the city receives heavy rain in future,’’ says Aisha Saifulla, a social activist.
Residents of the area say that the encroachers have political influence and are capable of doing anything to stop their buildings from being demolished by the BBMP authorities. “The survey report clearly mentioned the encroachment of the land reserved for the SWD. The building owner (V Sreenivas Gowda) has political clout and the BBMP engineers have colluded with him,’’ says a resident on conditions of anonymity.
According to the residents, Gowda’s relatives sold the site to one Mr Prakash who came to know about the encroachment after constructing a huge building on the site. It is being said that Gowda has used the survey report submitted to the court to frighten Prakash about the imminent demolition and bought the building for Rs 30 lakh.
“Now, the BBMP engineers have reduced the width of the storm water drain being constructed, thus allowing the encroachers go scot free,” a resident said.
The residents are also not happy with the substandard quality of the ongoing work. “We are told that the BBMP has allocated Rs 50 lakh for the construction of the SWD but the quality of work is very poor,’’ says P Udaya Shankar, a RTI activist who filed a complaint with the executive engineer of Pulakeshinagar division, BBMP.
However, Channakeshava H R, assistant works inspector, said that he was not aware of the issue. “I have been working here for the last two months. I am not aware of the issue. I will inform my superiors about it,’’ says Channakeshava.
When contacted, Diwakar, executive engineer, Pulakeshinagar division, BBMP, has said that he visited the spot along with the local corporator, MLA and other residents. “Not many people complained against the width of the storm water drain. I have received a complaint from P Udaya Shankar. I will depute my subordinates to the spot once again.
I will look into the matter,’’ says Diwakar.
During the recent meeting held with chief secretary of Karnataka government Vijay Bhaskar, the BBMP had said that it is only responsible for the construction of SWDs but does not own them.
The BBMP presented the following statistics about SWDs: “Bengaluru city has about 1,988 cases of SWD encroachments of which about 566 cases are of residential buildings, 56 cases of commercial buildings, 1,076 cases by agricultural or vacant lands, 290 cases of roads making it to more than 400 acres of encroachment on SWD lands.”