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What triggered recent demolition exercise

BBMP started demolition exercise on Saturday (August 6th) morning post flooding caused by heavy rainfall in Bangalore two weeks back. The situation was quite serious in several parts of Bangalore such as Silk Board, Arekere and Mahadevpura areas where people were seen fishing on main arterial roads causing massive embarrassment for the govt. Similar flooding happened in the month of May this year as well as previous few years.

What is causing flooding in Bangalore

Bangalore, the city of gardens & lakes, had almost 1000 active inter-connected lakes, a massive network of natural & man-made drains and over 78% of forest cover three decades ago. IT boom of early 2000s led to rapid urbanisation of Bangalore causing unplanned & haphazard development all over the city leading to encroachment of lakes & water bodies. A large number of apartments, residential layouts (both private & BDA planned), commercial offices, SEZs and government offices came up on water beds of these lakes, thus breaking the natural connection among lakes & water bodies. As most of the drains & lakes have been encroached upon heavy rainfall caused flooding on streets as there was no way for the water to recede.

Why were lakes encroached & who did it

Easiest lands to acquire in earlier days were lake properties as there were hardly any protest from the civil society due to lack of awareness & they virtually came free of cost. It all started with govt agencies such as City Improvement Trust Board (CITB), BDA & KIADB which acquired lake bed properties to build residential & industrial layouts. By an estimate BDA has done 14 layouts on lake beds! The entire posh Koramangala & JP Nagar layouts built by CITB & BDA are on lake beds. This encouraged private builders to do the same leading to massive encroachment of water bodies.

Is demolition exercise justified

There are different types of irregularities involved in water body encroachments.

1. A number of developers had / have fudged property & revenue papers in connivance with govt officials to get sanctions. Usually what they do is change survey nos to remove presence of water bodies on their land or shift the presence of water bodies to some other survey nos by fudging papers. Thus they do not have to comply with setback norms required for lakes & drains. Unfortunately home buyers do not have any clue about this as they usually trust their banks to do the legal work. You also can not make out the presence of water bodies by simply visiting the land as explained in the below section. Home buyers look at approval papers and go ahead with their purchase decision.

2) There are people who have intentionally built houses on drains or encroached upon lake properties to build their houses. Such people must be punished without any excuse. This would act as a deterrent for people in future.

Real question that should be asked is “Isn’t it undemocratic for the same authority to cancel approvals issued by it?” How can planning authorities fail to identify irregularities? Rather than punishing officers & builders who fudged papers to get sanctions, BDA & BBMP are punishing buyers who bought plots or houses approved by the authorities themselves. Govt should recover losses caused to these home buyers by recovering penalties from such errant builders & officers. 

Why there is so much confusion about lakes & drains

There is a lack of awareness & understanding of revenue matters among common man. A lake or drain (naala) need not be physically present to be identified as a lake or naala. This usually misleads common man from believing that there is no water bodies within or abutting the property. Planning authorities such as BDA and BBMP look at “presence” of water bodies by referring to 1) physical presence 2) village map & 3) CDP. So there might have been a lake or drain 20 or 50 or 100 years back on a piece of land which may have eventually dried up. However they don’t cease to be a water body on the government papers. Hence a physical presence of water body is not mandatory.

Learning & Way ahead for new buyers

Do you due-diligence before you invest your hard earned money in property. Hire a good lawyer or an experienced advisory firm to do a through review of the property, project & builder involved. Unfortunately Indians take their bankers clearance on face value. Trust me banks hire mediocre lawyers to do legal & technical jobs.

Always remember there is something in the law called “Caveat Emptor” which means the buyer alone is responsible for the quality, legality and suitability of goods (including properties) before a purchase is made. So you and only you are responsible for your property NOT your bank or your bank’s lawyer. So people please make sure you are buying not only a legally verified property but also a “rightly” approved property.

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