In view of the recent floods in Bengaluru, the BBMP’s decision to erase buildings and structures built on storm-water drains, salt pans and lake-beds has taken all by surprise.
Over the past few days, we have seen images of anguished owners watch their life’s earnings reduced to rubble as the municipal officials recklessly bulldozed their homes.
Many plot owners, registered on the A-khata, have now realised the khata is no more than a sale deed for a financial transaction. Although their property plans and layouts were sanctioned by the civic body based on this deed, it is completely disassociated with the government’s urban infrastructure surveys and cannot be used as a security blanket.
The recent actions of the State government have drawn severe criticism as most of these projects were sanctioned and approved by the same authorities.
No detailed investigation
Without any probe, detailed investigation or issue of a demolition notice, the civic officials have done little apart from publishing the 1923 storm-water drainage maps that were created by the then British government.
These maps, constructed at a time when Bengaluru was regarded no more than a “pensioner’s paradise” reveal a drainage network connecting man-made water reservoirs (lakes or tanks) for irrigation and domestic use.
Some of these lakes/water bodies have either dried up and/or are non-existent now.
Does a demolition drive to allow storm-water drains to empty into these non-existent lakes solve the flooding issue that currently plagues the city?
As the city pushes its boundaries to accommodate a population of 8.42 million, loopholes in BBMP’s plans and neglect towards storm-water drainage issues are coming out. The topography of Bengaluru has changed dramatically and the BBMP itself has created several urban plans to address these issues.
But should the common man suffer the dire consequences? While these maps can be used as a useful reference to support the urban infrastructure, they should not be used as the whole, sole point of reference.
Crux of the problem
The crux of the problem lies in the total disregard of civic authorities towards the drainage network in the peripheral villages that have been subsumed into Bengaluru over the last three decades.
The lack of transparency, and incoherency between survey settlements and land records has led to the recent issue of land encroachment and left a question mark on the functionality of the system in the city.
It is only now that details indicating which areas of east, west, south Rajarajeshwarinagar, Dasarahalli, Yelahanka, Bommanahalli and Mahadevapura zones fall under the demolition drive have come to the fore.
Though deemed as a legitimate move by government officials, this cannot be the only solution to the issue of overflowing lakes or the conservation of shrinking water bodies in the city.
Instead of razing concrete structures, the authorities need to reconcile revenue records, maps and plans to what is relevant today; and look at alternative solutions such as increasing buffer zone around lakes, scrutinising under-construction properties and building support infrastructure for the drainage network.
While old maps can be used as a useful reference to support the urban infrastructure, they should not be used as the whole, sole point of reference