Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Commercialisation of residential areas goes unchecked

Commercialisation of residential areas goes unchecked

Chitra V. Ramani
You can seek change in land use: it is usually granted at the payment of a fee. Result? Mushrooming of commercial complexes
The BBMP does not have a monitoring system

CDP implemented more in violation than in enforcement


Violation: The basement here should have been allotted for vehicle parking. Instead it houses a warren of commercial establishments, compounding the local residents’ problems when shoppers park their vehicles outside the building.
Bangalore: Recently, a group of people ransacked a popular restaurant in Indiranagar and attacked the staff alleging the spot had become a public nuisance. Residents claimed haphazard parking by diners and late night parties at the restaurant were making their lives miserable.

In several other instances, residents of various localities have moved courts seeking closure of commercial establishments in their midst.

Officials powerless
The Hindu did a reality check and discovered that officials are powerless. They conceded that nothing can be done to prevent sprouting of commercial establishments in residential areas. The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the agency responsible for enforcing zoning regulations, does not have a monitoring system. A senior official, on condition of anonymity, said: “It all boils down to enforcement. The civic authorities did it in New Delhi. Here enforcement is almost non-existent. We first need to put in place a monitoring system that works.”

The official admitted that enforcement of the zoning regulations was the weakest link in the city’s development. “Many issues are involved, including laxity on part of the corporation. And then there is political interference. Though a number of notices are issued to violators, people go to court and get a stay.”

Col. Mathew Thomas, general secretary of Citizens’ Action Forum, said that the civic authorities have not followed the regulations pertaining to zones and permissible activities in the zones, as mentioned in the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act. “The civic authorities created zones — residential, commercial and mixed use — and allowed their violation. According to the regulations and a Supreme Court order, certain commercial activities (22 in number) are allowed in residential zones. However, a short walk around residential areas in the city will reveal otherwise,” he said.

Also, as per Section 112 of the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, the civic authority (BBMP in this case) should carry out a survey and maintain a register of properties. “The register should be publicly accessible. However, the BBMP neither conducts any survey nor maintains a register,” he said.

Several protests
When the Bangalore Development Authority’s Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) came into force, residents of several areas protested as it showed some residential areas as mixed-use zones. This only meant that commercial establishments could be set up in residential areas, compounding the problems that plagued them (residential areas) already.

What is worse, you can walk into the BDA and ask for change in land use. Invariably, it is granted with very few questions asked. These changes are mostly made under Section 14A of the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act. This section empowers officials to use discretionary powers if it is in the “public interest”. Many citizens’ groups have alleged that the section is being grossly misused. They say officials often permit change in land use merely on the payment of the stipulated fee, which is contrary to the principles of town planning. This has resulted in mushrooming of commercial complexes in residential areas.

More in violation
Ravindranath Guru, RTI activist, said that the CDP, which is the blueprint for the city’s planners, has been implemented more in violation than in enforcement. “A testament to that is the unbridled commercialisation of residential areas such as Malleswaram, Sadashivanagar, Indiranagar and Koramangala.”

BDA Commissioner Siddaiah admitted that large-scale violations have taken place. “When violations are brought to our notice, we initiate legal action. However, the BDA does not have the resources to keep tabs on the violations. Much of the responsibility lies with the BBMP,” he said.

Mr. Siddaiah said that the BDA has a committee to process applications for change in land use.

“We permit change only after taking into account the dimension of the plot, width of the road and extent of development in the area.”

The Commissioner maintained that when the BBMP issues trade licences for setting up of hotels and commercial establishments, the corporation must insist on the land use pattern certificate. However most of the time, that is not done.


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