Wednesday, May 02, 2007

NO EXIT

NO EXIT
Encroachments are giving the authorities a headache, what with vote-bank politics raising its ugly head
The TImes of INdia

Bangalore: A row of 130-odd illegal shops and houses is bang on the retaining wall of a Storm Water Drain in Shivajinagar. And islands of shanties are along the perennially flowing open drain near Kamakya theatre. One cloudburst and sullage water from open drains and clogged manholes gushes into houses, unable to find its way through the narrow and silt-loaded course of the valley.
Ironically, the state government which okayed the Rs 425-crore worth storm water drain remodelling project, has done little to facilitate the completion of the project. All efforts of the BBMP to evict the encroachers are entangled in numerous dilemmas. If officials blame ‘vote-bank politics’ for growing encroachments, politicians take refuge in ‘humanitarian concern’.
The oft-repeated announcement which comes at the drop of the hat soon after rains and flooding in the city by the powers-that-be is: “All slums along storm water drains will be evicted and slumdwellers provided alternative housing.’’ Not to be left out, even chief minister H D Kumaraswamy echoed this during a recent inspection in the city. Perhaps, he was hinting at resolving a civic problem entangled in vote-bank politics. Eviction of encroachers has become inevitable, and it will take one giant step to end flooding of open drains and lake beds that cause havoc during every monsoon.
And every time it rains and floods the city, the civic authorities are quick to announce a “comprehensive survey on encroachments of drains’’. But to date, the authorities do not have the exact number of properties encroaching the drain beds and water bodies. Of course, this is forgotten till the next flooding.
A rough estimate by BBMP engineers says at least 400-500 unauthorised structures have come up along each of the four valleys — Koramangala, Vrishabhavati, Hebbal and Challaghatta.
Who can forget the October 2005 rain which marooned the city? The postmortem report on flooding threw up shocking revelations. Just 61 buildings which were illegally constructed on the raja kaluve of three major tanks blocked the water flow and resulted in flooding. A survey of 29 tanks such as Begur, Sarakki, Puttenahalli, Madivala, Agara, Bellandur, Nagawara, etc. had overflowed as its raja kaluves have been blocked by 708 unauthorised constructions.
However, three lakes were the worst offenders as they caused major inundation due to overflowing — Nayandahalli on Mysore Road, Sarakki tank and Puttenahalli lake off J P Nagar as the primary valleys were blocked by 61 buildings comprising sheet houses to commercial complexes to high-rise apartments.
As authorities put it, every stretch has its own unique problem. “While we have issued notices to some slumdwellers, some middle-class apartments stand tall on the retaining walls in violation of the setback rules,’’ explained Harsh Gupta, joint commissioner (works), BBMP.
No doubt, it’s a wild goose chase: The IT City has no survey map that demarcates natural boundaries like lakes, drains, roads and parks, among others. The project team is finding it difficult to identify encroachments for want of reference points. “Some balconies of houses are jutting out into the drains. In some localities, there are rows of houses on the drain wall. This makes it difficult to say if it is an encroachment unless we do individual survey of the properties,’’ explained Gupta.
Another hitch is the absence of a law to protect the drain width and the buffer zone. “We are hoping the bye-laws being framed along with the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) will resolve most issues. At least the new areas, which aren’t as developed as the core area, will benefit and vigilance can be better,’’ explained Gupta.
Encroachment hinders bed treatment of the drains, especially desilting and maintenance. Encroachers flush in all their into the drains too.
Topping the hit list
Nayandahalli lake’s waste wear: encroachments lead to flooding of Mysore road and Rajarajeshwari Nagar.
Encroachments of primary valley of Puttenahalli lake and Sarakki lake’s raja kaluve will flood Bangalore south areas, says survey report.
Two lakes on Bellary road — Hebbal and Nagawara.
Encroachment belts: Hanumagiri, Kamakya, Shivajinagar, Vasantnagar, Koramangala, Challaghatta and Hebbal valley.
Revenue pockets: Annamagiri, Kodihalli, Yeshwantpur, Nayandahalli, Pantarapalya, Rajarajeshwari Nagar. Encroachment by utility agencies, trunk sewer lines at critical locations.
Efforts so far
1,000 encroachments identified along the drain bed; 250 have already been removed from Kamkya and Koramangala areas; encroachment on retaining walls large in number and eviction notices issued.
75-odd structures along SWD demolished across the city.
Properties identified for demolition in Kavalbyrasandra and embankment areas of valleys as structures are abutting the retention walls.
Stagewise survey to map encroachments, wherever SWD width is inadequate.
300 manholes inside the drains which block flow of water have been levelled.
Low-lying slums will be rehabilitated under JNNURM.

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