According to data submitted by the city’s civic body to the High Court of Karnataka on Thursday, Mahadevapura zone, one of the most densely developed areas over the last two decades and the worst hit by floods earlier this month, had 1,689 encroachments of storm-water drains in 2016-17, the highest for any zone by a large margin that day, when the clearance drive began.
But today, it has only 133 encroachments left, the rest have been cleared over the years, the civic body told the High Court.
If most of the encroachments in Mahadevapura zone were already cleared, why was it indeed the worst affected area during the recent heavy rains and resultant floods, many lake conservation activists have now questioned.
“How is it possible that only just a over 100 encroachments are identified to be cleared when almost the whole Mahadevapura zone is flooded after rains,” lake conservation activist V. Ramprasad, of Friends of Lakes, asked. He termed the data submitted by Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike to the High Court as a “gross undercount” and demanded that the State government form a committee with technical experts to unearth the real extent of encroachments of the SWD network in the city. It should have hydrologists and hydrogeologists as its members and be mandated to conduct a technical survey across the city.
However, BBMP engineers claimed the number of encroachments in Mahadevapura zone was true to ground reality and not undercounted. The region is hit by floods due to extremely heavy rainfall during a short interval of time and flooding cannot be only attributed to encroachments.
Meanwhile, senior BBMP officials, who did not wish to be named, also conceded to a possible undercount. A senior BBMP engineer told The Hindu that the data submitted to the High Court was the result of an on-ground survey conducted by the civic body in 2016 and it may be partial. Several drains are there in the revenue village maps but may have completely disappeared and no sign of it on the ground, which may have not figured in the BBMP survey. Only a joint exercise between BBMP and Revenue Department using revenue village maps and an on ground survey will yield the full picture, he said.
BMTF registered 91 cases
Bengaluru Metropolitan Task Force (BMTF), vigilance agency for civic bodies in the city mainly to check land grabs, has registered 91 cases of illegal encroachments, including those of storm-water drains and lakes, this year till Friday. Meanwhile, the task force received around 700 petitions, which are presently under inquiry, said K. Ramachandra Rao, ADGP, BMTF.
Activists point out BMTF has mostly been ineffective and needs more teeth to act against encroachers.