The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is set to give a facelift to the rajakaluve (major stormwater drain) connecting K.R. Market to Bellandur lake after the State government’s approval of the ₹160-crore ‘Citizens Water Way Project’. The ambitious project found mention in Bengaluru Mission 2022 that was announced by Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa on December 2020.
Considered to be one of the most historically significant rajakaluves, the K-100 connected the erstwhile Dharmabudhi lake, where the Kempegowda Bus Station now stands, with Bellandur lake. The primary drain is 11.4 km in length, with a total 28.06-km network, including secondary drains.
The project is envisaged to establish the rajakaluve as a waterway and ecological corridor in the city, on the lines of the development of Pasig River in Manila, Cheong Gyecheon in Seoul, South Korea, Klong Ong Ang Canal rejuvenation in Bangkok, Lu Chuan Canal in Taiwan, and many water canals running through residential neighbourhoods in Singapore. It calls for pathways for walking and cycling lanes, while ensuring that drain capacity is not reduced.
As a first step, the civic body has proposed to address the pollution caused by sewage, untreated industrial effluents, garbage, unregulated construction leading to channelisation and reduced width.
BBMP Commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad told The Hindu that the project has been proposed to be taken up under Design, Build, Operate and Transfer scheme, with the operation and maintenance for five years. It will be funded under the 15th Finance Commission.
He said that the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) had already ensured that sewage has stopped flowing in the drain by constructing an underground drainage pipeline.
“There is still around 10% sewage flowing in the drain due to unauthorised activities along the drain. This too will be tackled at the earliest,” Mr. Prasad said, and added that the BBMP would be floating tender for the project next week.
The BBMP had been working on the project proposal for the past three months. “We even filed a petition before the National Green Tribunal, which directed the Monitoring Committee led by former Lokayukta N. Santosh Hegde to look into it,” he added.
Keep private companies out: Civic activists
Civic activists have welcomed the development of the important rajakaluve that runs through many populated areas in the city, but fear privatisation of public spaces with the involvement of the private sector. They want the project to conform to the orders of the High Court of Karnataka on protection of rajakaluves and lakes in the city, and for civic agencies to execute the project without the involvement of private companies.
Leo Saldanha from the Environment Support Group pointed out that the proposed Design, Build, Operate and Transfer model privatises public space. There are many examples of such models not yielding the desired result and ending with a lot of arbitration. “We should not allow corporates to colonise. Such projects should ideally be executed and maintained by a public agency,” he said.
Kshitij Urs, professor of public policy at National Law School of India University, welcomed the development of the rajakaluve, but wondered if basing it on the European model is the way forward. “A water front is needed, but it should be based on a natural green corridor,” he said.
He also said that in the context of climate change, the city needed adaptive governance where ecological sustainability is a major goal. “Unless you have a 10-year plan, you cannot have a two-year plan,” he said and added that there was an opportunity to become self-contained and carbon neutral.