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Bengaluru Floods: BBMP Approved Building Plans, now Orders Demolition

Amid political pressure to take action on encroachers, the civic body is on a demolition spree in the city.
The remains of the Ragam Mega Store

The remains of the Ragam Mega Store

Several residential localities in the Mahadevapura Assembly constituency in Bengaluru woke up on Monday morning to the prospect of having their homes demolished. The unprecedented flooding, especially in the Bellandur region, has pressured the ruling BJP government to find solutions to the problem. The government has ordered the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to identify illegal encroachment of stormwater drains (SWD) and clear the encroachments at the earliest.

However, several houses that have been erected directly over SWDs have been given A-Khatas (permission) by the BBMP itself.

Govardhan Rao, a civil engineer, tried to stop the bulldozer from razing his house in AECS Layout but was physically restrained by the police. The officials razed the compound wall of his house and asked him to vacate the property within three days.

Speaking to NewsClick, he said, "They never gave me any notice or showed me any order copy. BBMP officials came to my home on Saturday and told me that my house would be demolished within a week. I recently renovated the interiors, and I have so many things inside. My parents also live in the same building. Now I have to look for a house for rent.” The pain in his voice was evident; he was struggling to make peace with the loss of his home.

The house of Govardhan Rao (in yellow paint)

The house of Govardhan Rao (in yellow paint)

He also mentioned that his home was a recent construction and that the BBMP had approved the building plans and provided him with the A-Khata. He said, "I took a loan of Rs. 1.2 crore from the Bank of Baroda and constructed my house in 2011. This was done only after getting all the approvals from the BBMP itself."

Next to Rao's property is another building which has been rented to a small shopping centre called 'Ragam Mega Store'. The entire front facade of the store was demolished by the authorities.

Munnekolala Lake

Munnekolala Lake

Unfortunately for Rao, his three-storey home lies on a stretch of road that connects two lakes - the Munnekolala lake and the Chinnapanahalli lake. The existing SWD lies underneath several concrete housing projects. In order to restore the SWD, the BBMP will raze all the structures located directly above it. The proposed SWD would connect the two lakes and cut through at least seven houses, requiring their demolition (either wholly or partly). However, it will bypass a piece of land belonging to a local Muslim activist called MR Rafeeq. He is a member of an organisation called the Mulnivasi Ambedkar Sangha (MAS). The proposed SWD would narrowly avoid two of his vacant (60x40) sites.

The local residents say that if the SWD is made to pass through his property, then no house needs to be demolished on this layout. According to their suggestion, the SWD can be diverted through his land as well as the road adjacent to Rao’s property. Presently, the road remains intact, and the houses will be demolished. This is causing consternation among residents who believe that his land has been spared because of his political connections.

A distraught Govardhan Rao physically held back by police (pic courtesy - Sanjevani News)

A distraught Govardhan Rao physically held back by police (pic courtesy - Sanjevani News)

 

Speaking to NewsClick, Rafeeq denied the presence of any SWD running under his lands. He plans to build a compound around his site to prevent any encroachment during the SWD expansion.

As messy as it may be to imagine such a haphazardly planned layout, the local residents say that this is the case with most of the housing layouts in the Mahadevapura constituency. This constituency, especially the Bellandur region, is a hub of IT and corporate giants. As more and more companies started setting up shops in Bellandur, the surrounding areas became part of one of the most lucrative regions in the city. Residential projects were also prioritised in order to cater to the demand for housing in proximity to the commercial hub.

One such residential layout is called Spice Garden Layout. The area is in close proximity to Munnekolala lake and is the centre of seemingly endless rows of paying-guest accommodations and co-living spaces. The BBMP officials say that they have identified another twelve buildings in Spice Garden, which will be demolished fully or partly to construct and expand the existing SWD network. Spice Garden is mostly home to young working professionals, who confirmed that this layout was partly submerged due to the rains last week.

Armed with survey documents, village maps, and a JCB, a BBMP team, including engineers and a surveyor, visited the various demolition sites and began preparations for demolition. They marked the route of the SWD in red paint, and where possible, they began demolition. The demolition drive started on Saturday and will go on for the rest of the week.

The BBMP also released a list of major developers encroaching on SWDs. Fifteen high-profile names are on the list. Meanwhile, Govardhan Rao and the affected residents in AECS Layout plan to approach the Karnataka High Court on Tuesday, hoping for a stay order.

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