Fate of other lakebeds lies in government's hands

Fate of other lakebeds lies in government's hands

Illegal property and encroachments galore have been demolished on the Sarakki lakebed in JP Nagar and Banaswadi lakebed.

These demolitions raise questions on the fate of 14 other lakes on which Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) has admitted that it has developed 14 layouts.

BDA Commissioner T Sham Bhat himself has stated that BDA developed 3,500 sites in these layouts and that the cost of their construction runs upto Rs 10,000 crore. Will these layouts now suffer the same fate?

The question assumes importance because these layouts house at least 3,000 structures, both residential and commercial, which will likely be brought down. The  State government has not decided how many lakes it wants to protect and how many it wants to exclude from preservation. Due to this lack of clarity, the district administration is acting in line with High Court and Supreme Court orders on demolitions.

Former senior government officials who are observing the trend say that since permission has been given to bring down illegal structures, the drive will go on.

“What do you expect? They may have chosen to postpone the date of demolition, but that doesn’t mean that the demolition will stop. If the government does not act fast, the district administration will go by the Court orders and begin anti-encroachment drives on the remaining lakes that the BDA has developed sites on,” says a senior ex-official, preferring anonymity. 

Some of the lakes where demolition is likely are Channamanakere tank bed, Thippasandra, Geddalahalli, Chikkamaranahalli lake, part of Agara lake, Yellikunte lake, part of B-Channasandra lake, Sinivagilu Ammani lake, Hulimavu and Nagarabhavi lake in Yeshwantapur. The number of sites the layouts have varies from 30 to 330 depending on the size of each lakebed.

There is also the Linganahalli lake (Dollars Colony, JP Nagar) where action is sought to be taken. Bengaluru Urban District in-charge minister, B Ramalinga Reddy stated that the government would verify as to how the BDA had allotted sites to 410 VIPs in Dollars Colony, JP Nagar without ascertaining that it was the Linganahalli lakebed.

A member of a city-based environmental group says action should be taken on lakebeds “where there has been fraud and commercial interests have persisted. In case there are urban poor residing, rehabilitation of the poor should be undertaken before demolition. We have been able to protect the case of the urban poor in the case of the Subramanyapura lake. So each lake will have to be taken up case by case to see who resides on them and whether innocent people have been evicted.”

The anti-encroachment drive on all other lakes other than the Banaswadi and Sarakki will have to be lake-specific and population-specific. “Depending on the people and structures that inhabit the lake, the demolition drive should be undertaken appropriately,” says the environmentalist.

The fate of the lakebeds depends also on government decision. The demolition drive in other lakes has been postponed till June 4. If by then, the government has not taken a definite stand on what it should do with BDA layouts as opposed to revenue layouts and sites, the district administration will be forced to act in line with court orders.

Everything now hinges on the decision that would be taken in the next 20 days. A decision to issue notices to residents in Dollars Colony, JP Nagar, has already made them jittery. Come June 4, things may be sweet or sour for the residents on other lakebeds.

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