The year 2016 saw the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (“BBMP”) going on a repossession and demolition drive on properties constructed and/or encroached on the dreaded “Rajakaluve” or Storm Water Drain (“SWD”).  Most property owners in Bangalore had a scare last year, because the BBMP demolished several properties, leaving a number of people homeless.

Before I delve into the propriety of the demolition drive, we must first understand what exactly is this Rajakaluve? Bangalore was once known as the garden city, and had a lot of lakes in and around the city.  Yes! Bangalore once had fresh air, and was a pleasant place to live in, but that is not the focus of this post!!!

The SWDs drain rain water into those lakes, and they are known in Bangalore as the “Rajakaluve”.  Most of the lakes have commercial and residential complexes standing in them.  Yet again, I digress…

The environmentalists and the National Green Tribunal (“NGT”) are fighting to preserving what is left of the green Bangalore.

Particularly, the NGT’s ruling in the matter of Mantri Techzone Private Limited, is changing the face of Bangalore.  In that action, a charitable trust and environmentalists sued the Government of Karnataka, the Bangalore Development Authority, the Pollution Control Board, and of course Mantri Techzone contending that Mantri had encroached the Rajakaluve for constructing a Software Technology Park, Residential Complex, a Hotel, and Multi Level Car Parks.

Interestingly, this land was allotted to Mantri Techzone by the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board, which is part of the Government of Karnataka.  Well… to cut a long story short, the NGT ultimately established a buffer zone, and prevented any construction from coming up as follows:

  • In the case of lakes and wetlands, 75 m, from the periphery of the waterbody to be maintained as a green belt or buffer zone
  • 50m from the edge of a primary Rajakaluve
  • 35m from the edge of a secondary Rajakaluve
  • 25m from the edge of tertiary Rajakaluve 

The buffer zone means that no construction can come up within the distance from the SWD as mentioned above.

The issue here is not with the implementation of the NGT’s order, it is with government authorities’ scant regard to established rules before granting relevant permissions to form layouts, or issuing licenses for raising constructions.  My issue is with the Governmental authorities issuing No objections for formation of residential and commercial layouts, or with the BBMP itself giving approval for such layout formations knowing fully well that there exists a lake or a Rajakaluve just adjacent to the property.

When the BBMP issues the “A” Khata, it certifies that the relevant property taxes are paid by the property owner, and also certifies that property conforms to all the by-laws and regulations relating to property in Bangalore.  Several properties that were demolished in 2016 due to the SWDs by the BBMP, also had “A” Khata issued by the BBMP itself.

To err is human isn’t it? So let us assume the BBMP too erred by issuing “A” Khatas to such properties, and demolishing houses was in a way was an effort to correct such wrongs.

So for the sake of the environment, let us say we accept the BBMP’s act (without condoning it of course) as an effort to correct the past wrongs.  The last few property due-diligence that I have done made me realize that the authorities have not learnt anything from their past mistakes, and are geared up to repeating the demolition drive every now and then.

Late last year, I performed a due diligence of a property, and what I found is… well nothing short of a ticking time bomb.  The property documents showed that the land developer has obtained all the necessary permissions and licenses to develop a residential layout, and also to sell it.

Look carefully, in Pic 1, the marked area is the SWD, leading to a lake.

pic-1
PIC 1

In Pic 2, the same marked area is represented as a road.

pic-2
PIC 2

Now, Pic 2, is an approved plan for the residential layout formation by the relevant authority.  A bird’s eye view of the approved plan shows a very well developed residential layout.  What was a SWD in the village map (PIC 1), is shown as a road (PIC 2).  Significantly, PIC 2 states that the road is currently 12 meters wide, and is slated for a widening to 24 meters.  Wow! Such detailing in an approved plan…

Sarcasm aside, why is the BBMP keeping quiet now when the residential sites are yet unsold?  Are they waiting for people to construct their houses, so they can come back to demolish it sometime in the future because it does not meet the NGT buffer zone requirement?

Allowing unsuspecting land owners to construct on such properties based on the approved plan, and transferring the land records in the names of such land owners is nothing short of a crime.

The BBMP must get its act together; they need to stop giving approvals to projects proposed to be built on these SWDs. And the unsuspecting prospective purchasers, you have no excuse, you need to get your property documents thoroughly vetted for any ancient remains of a SWD.

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