110 villages, 101 problems

110 villages, 101 problems

Un-tarred and bumpy, the country road lay there in rustic decay. On one side, the Varthur lake barely survived in its heavily encroached state.

Towering apartment blocks rose in tandem, their skeletal structures in various stages of completion. Elsewhere, wilderness reigned.

From a distance, the Balagere and Varthur villages beckoned.

These were among the 110 villages swallowed by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) in its steamrolling expansion of 2007.

But seven years after the Palike expanded its limits, many of these areas are plagued by stifling issues of connectivity, water, sewage and other basic civic amenities.

Villages that once proudly showcased their green signatures lay there gobbled up by the haphazard, bulldozing development brigade.

Dusty, the roads were everywhere.

For, there was no letup in the hurried movement of tankers ferrying water from the borewells dug across the Varthur lake bed, to the apartments and IT companies.

The villages – Panathur, Balegere and Varthur—had lost their once-cherished rustic charm long ago.

Transformed farmlands

No longer under the gram panchayats, they were now at the BBMP’s mercy.

The original residents, mostly farmers, had sold their farmlands at throwaway rates to builders.

The few thousands they earned as compensation had quickly evaporated. Now, they had nowhere to go, no land to cultivate.

They simply stared longingly at the big apartments that had risen up in lands they once owned.   

Resigned to his fate, Panathur resident, Jagadish, stood outside his provision store dusting the windows in vain. “I know the local corporator.

He complains that the MLA - who is from the opposition party -has not released any funds for this ward. I don’t know whether that is true or he is just making it up,” says Jagadish.

The tell-tale state of the main road outside his house was proof that the area had known no development for decades.

“This road is encroached at several spots. It becomes so narrow at places that a tractor alone can pass.

The then gram panchayat had laid an underground drain 30-40 years ago. It is there somewhere down, probably rusted,” he says.

Multi-storey buildings had mushroomed on either side of the Outer Ring Road, bordering Panathur and another village, Bellandur.

The unending stream of water tankers that passed through Panathur were headed to the multinational IT firms housed in those structures, and the residential apartments deep inside the erstwhile villages.

Expensive tankers

But the tankers wouldn’t stop for Jagadish and his neighbours unless stuck in a traffic jam. The old villagers would then crowd behind the tankers, filling their pots in a hurry.

These were the people who once had water in plenty, taking home by the bucketful from village wells galore. Laments Padma, a resident: “We would be lucky if we get some water from these tankers, once in five days. Getting a tanker itself has become so tough even if we shell out Rs 500 upwards.”

Like many old residents of Panathur, Jagadish’s father too had owned farmland. But he sold two acres for Rs 65,000  -  extremely low by today’s standards - to a builder.

An MNC has built a glass and steel towering structure at the spot.

A sense of loss and helplessness engulfs the son as he recalls, “My father had to raise funds for his brother’s wedding. It was a relatively good sum then!”

For Srinivasaiah, a resident of Balagere village, there was no use looking back.

All was lost.

He laments, “The bus connectivity to this village is very poor.

Hardly two buses come here. None of the old residents has a job.”

What remained to be seen was whether the residents could bank on BBMP or the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) for water and drainage.

The water supplied from the CMC borewells was finite, and the wells were fast drying up. The encroached lakebeds were no longer dependable for regeneration of the wells.

The water table had receded to dangerous levels.

In Bellandur village, Nandish Gowda and wife Padma sat in a store overlooking a brand new apartment.

They had no underground sewage drains or stormwater drains.

The pits dug ages ago were not reliable.

The water supplied through an informal network was salty. “It is very difficult here. We had shifted from another village, but here it is even worse. The dust and stink are unbearable,” laments Padma. 

Promise of Cauvery

What next?

The State government is reportedly exploring a Cauvery 5th Stage scheme to supply drinking water to areas not covered under the 4th stage.

The last stage had essentially catered to the new BBMP areas added in 2007, minus the 110 villages. The Thyagaraj committee consituted in 2010 had recommended a few alternatives to address the mounting water needs of the city.

Exploiting rivers such as Yettinahole, Kakkattahole, Konganahole, Linganamakki and Arkavathy was one proposal. The thirsty villages are estimated to require an additional 10 tmc ft of water. There is no way this will be realised in a hurry.

This year’s State budget does talk about the water needs of these villages.

BWSSB is even tasked with preparing a Detailed Project Report (DPR) to supply the additional resource.

But no funds have been allocated for this purpose.

However, a special development grant of Rs 250 crore was earmarked in the budget for the villages.

Hurried expansion

Urban planners have repeatedly questioned the expansion of the erstwhile Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BMP) from 226 sq km to about 800 sq km, by including the 110 villages, one City Municipal Corporation (CMC) and seven Town Municipal Corporations (TMCs).

This, they have said, was done without adequate planning for infrastructure and revenue generation.

For years, most of the newly added BBMP areas suffered without even the basic amenities. The state of the 110 villages has been worse. 

But as BBMP insiders say, the objective was not merely to accommodate the growing housing needs of the migrants coming to the city in droves.

It was to give an impetus to the real estate market.

Once the new areas were brought under the BBMP limits, the land value too went up substantially.

The booming realty market gave the State government a chance to increase the guidance value of land across the City, thus increasing its revenue.

Inevitably, this real estate boom created a new lot of neo-rich people, influential enough to affect government policies to their liking.

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