Illegal takeover of a lake bed

Illegal takeover of a lake bed

Illegal takeover of a lake bed

The Chikka Kallasandra Lake on 18th Main Road, Padmanabha Nagar, has been systematically encroached upon  and taken over by a greedy nexus of builders.

Spread across an expanse of 12 acres and 26 guntas, Chikka Kallasandra Lake in was once Uttarahalli’s pride. But today, this once thriving water body has vanished as a powerful land mafia in apparent collusion with conniving revenue officials encroached upon it and gobbled it up.

The lake, officially recorded as within Survey No 76 of Chikka Kallasandra village in Uttarahalli Hobli of Bangalore South Taluk, has lost all visible features of a water body.

In its place illegal structures galore, including multi-storied houses, three schools, a furniture shop and scores of metal fabrication workshops. As if these violations are not enough, the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) has a bus stop right on the lake bed.

In an RTI reply, the Public Information Officer of the Lake Development Authority said, “As per the official records of the authority, the lake is fully encroached and has lost all its features that a lake is supposed to have. It has been noticed that residential houses, schools, asphalted roads, parking place for buses, slums, temple etc have come up inside the lake bed.”

It was the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) which built a road right through the lake bed as its seal of approval to the blatant violation. One of the roads has been named after renowned Kannada litterateur Shivaram Karanth. A small portion of the vacant land is all that remains untouched, left as a playground.

Records as proof

Clearly, the revenue records are categorical that Survey No 76 of Chikka Kallasandra village is indeed a lake. The record of Rights, Tenancy and Crop (RTC), village tippani (revenue notes) and village maps are enough to prove beyond doubt that this piece of land has always been a water body. Yet, the land sharks had no qualms bulldozing the rules to illegally take over the lake.

The revenue officials are well aware of what exactly happened to the lake. The Survey and Settlement Department had even prepared a survey map of the lake in October 2010, demarcating the encroached areas attested by eight revenue official (the map is reproduced alongside this report).

Among the eight officers attesting this survey map were the Bangalore South Taluk land surveyor, Bangalore South Tahsildar, Revenue Inspector of Bangalore South Taluk and the Technical Assistant of the Deputy Commissioner of Bangalore Urban district. Yet, none of these revenue officials could muster courage to get the encroachments cleared and save the lake.

To authenticate the encroachment, the BBMP issued khathas to these illegal plots on which residential buildings have sprung up.

The constructions were approved although the Palike knew the buildings were coming up on the lake bed. Without raising any objections, the Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM) approved electricity connections to the land grabbers and the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) readily granted water connections.

Systematic encroachment

A visit to the area gives enough indications of how the encroachments were systematically carried out. Residents recall that initially, sewage was deliberately let directly into the lake. Later, truckloads of soil and construction debris were dumped as the government officers watched in silence. But it did not end there.

To ensure that no one raised any objection to this daylight robbery of an entire ecosystem, sites were carved on the encroached land and were allotted to individuals including some influential persons. Residents allege that many government officers and powerful politicians are among the illegal occupants.

Later, land records were fabricated. As one long-time campaigner for the lake protection points out, the title deeds of many plots carry a survey number different from the one where the site is actually located.

BBMP, which is the custodian of the lake, has refused to develop it without a survey sketch. Replying to a different RTI query, the Palike’s Lake division stated that it did not have the survey sketch to evict encroachment and develop the lake.

On the status of the lake, the BBMP said it is “partly encroached.” It added: “action will be taken to evict encroachers after the survey sketch is received from Tahsildar, Bangalore South Taluk. The Tahsildar has been requested to survey the lake area and to send certified sketch of the lake.”

Deccan Herald is possession of the certified survey sketch of the lake, prepared by the Bangalore Urban district authorities.

Revenue Inspector threatened

Based on complaints regarding the encroachment of Chikka Kallasandra Lake, the Tahsildar had directed the revenue inspector concerned to make a field visit and assess the amount of encroachment. The officer visited the spot for a field inspection in January, this year. But he was threatened by the land grabbers and asked to leave the place immediately.

The officer prepared a detailed report drawing attention to the illegalities and the threats he received.

He observed that unless there was a heavy police protection, a field survey cannot be carried out. But the report had no desired effect.

The Deputy Commissioner of Bangalore Urban and the Tahsildar, who have magisterial powers, too did not initiate any measures to evict encroachment and protect the government property. Residents around the area harbour hopes of reviving the lake.

But they are scared of a violent backlash if they raised their voices. A well-entrenched network of musclemen is at the beck and call of the powerful. A photographer capturing the illegal structures recently had a taste of this when the men threatened him and forced him to vacate the place immediately.

Political twist

Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee secretary Gurappa Naidu squarely blames the public representatives for the mess.

“Illegality cannot happen without the support and involvement of public representatives. We have to doubt their integrity if they have chosen to remain silent on the disappearance of the lake,” he alleges.

But despite his party being in power, Naidu is unable to push the state government into action mode on the lake revival.

Ahead of the assembly elections last year, Naidu had arranged a Congress March to the lake, led by KPCC president G Parameshwara. That too was of no consequence.

Records of Rights, Tenancy and Crop (RTC), Tippani and village map clearly show that Survey Number 76 of Chikka Kallasandra village on 18th Main, Padmanabha Nagar, has always been a water body.

Despite being aware of the illegality, BBMP issued khatas to residential buildings that sprang up on the occupied lake. Bescom approved power connection and BWSSB water.

BBMP says land grabbers cannot be evicted and the lake cannot be developed without a survey sketch. But Deccan Herald could get a  certified survey sketch from Urban district authorities

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