Rejuvenated Sarjapur Road Lake faces new threats

Kaikondrahalli lake along Sarjapur road, whose rejuvenation is being spearheaded by some active residents along with BBMP, is under the threat of encroachment now. While local corporator and MLA are demanding that the lake land be acquired for widening of Sarjapur road, another group is trying to build a temple in the north-east side of the lake.

Fencing on side was completed smoothly. Pic: Navya PK

In September, when the fencing around lake perimeter was in progress, some anti-social elements had opposed it, threatening the BBMP contractor and officials who were in charge of the work. Residents nearby say that the group had removed newly erected poles for fencing, on two occasions. In early October, then-BBMP Commissioner H Siddaiah and local MLA Arvind Limbavali had visited the spot and met those for and against the fencing.

At the meeting, Limbavali said that it was important to widen Sarjapur road, indicating his support for the plan to acquire lake land for this. He said that this was necessary since Sarjapur road would lead to the proposed Peripheral Ring Road (PRR), serving as an alternate route to the International Airport at Devanahalli.

Residents contend that Limbavali and local politicians want fencing to be done by taking 4-6 feet off the original lake boundary, to allow land to be acquired for widening. Speak to Citizen Matters, Bellandur corporator B P Babu Reddy says that widening of Sarjapur road was approved in BBMP Council last year, but work is yet to start. BBMP Chief Engineer (Major Roads) S Somashekhar says that BBMP has handed over the work to BDA and that the project is to widen the road from Iblur to Devanahalli.

Reddy says that he is demanding change in fencing not for road widening, but to build a footpath. "The lake boundary stretches along one km of Sarjapur road. About 60% of this road stretch has footpath, but in the other part, the lake boundary extends into the road leaving no space for footpaths. I ask for fencing to be shifted only to allow space for footpath," he says.

Commissioner Siddhaiah and Minister Limbavali inspecting the lake. Pic: Meera K

Fencing is part of the second phase of the lake’s rejuvenation. United Way, a non-profit organisation, has been given the tender to maintain the lake and the resident-formed Trust Mahadevpura Parisara Samrakshane Mattu Abhivrudhi Samiti (MAPSAS), is in charge of overseeing the work. Residents have been engaging with BBMP since 2008 for lake rejuvenation.

At the September meeting, residents had pointed out to Siddaiah, a Supreme Court order earlier this year, which states that the geography of lakes should not be altered. Siddaiah, however, advised the residents and the local politicians to come to an amicable solution.

Residents opposed any compromise, arguing that there was no justification for compromise as the Supreme Court ruling is clear on what can and cannot be done at a lake. They asked for fencing work to be continued and requested a survey of government land at the other side of Sarjapur road so that it can be acquired for widening. Residents have maps which show the historic extent of the lake and also indicates that the land opposite the lake is government land.

Priya Ramasubban, one of the residents who played a key role in the lake rejuvenation, said, "There is no need for road widening but if there is, we need a traffic survey done to determine that there is heavy traffic. Even then, you cannot use the lake land as the court order prohibits it. There is government land on the other side which can be used for widening".

The pillars are constructed barely a feet away from the compound wall. Pic: Yogaraj S Mudalgi

Residents have not had discussions with the politicians and have not received any assurance from BBMP that fencing will be done along the original boundary. "Fencing is progressing. The disputed section of the boundary has not been fenced yet," says Priya. Residents have sent representations to the new BBMP Commissioner M K Shankarlinge Gowda and the Urban Development Department, but have not received any response.

B V Satish, Chief Engineer (Lakes) at BBMP, says that fencing will be done along the original boundary itself and that the lake land cannot be used for road widening without High Court’s permission. He says that the government land opposite the lake is being surveyed now.

"If land has to be acquired within the lake boundary or even the government land opposite it, permission has to be taken first from the government and the High Court. High Court has given directions for lake protection in a case. For now, we have no directions on land acquisition for widening," he says.

Unauthorised temple construction
Meanwhile, residents of Elements Layout adjacent to the lake are up in arms about the construction of a temple near the lake. They claim that the temple is unauthorised and violates building plans. Builders of the temple claim they have permission to construct a temple, a hall and part of the road (a copy of the Right To Construct is with Citizen Matters).
However, the temple is only a few metres from the lake, which violates the state government rule that a buffer zone of 30 metres be provided around lakes. Also, pillars of the temple have been erected only a feet away from the neighbouring Elements Layout compound, which residents say amounts to planning violation.

Fencing on side was completed smoothly. Pic: Navya PK

Venkata Krishana, a resident of Elements Layout, adjacent to whose house the temple is coming up, says that a trishul (trident) was planted by a person named Pilla Shetty, at the site in early 2008. Krishna says that a BBMP Assistant Executive Engineer had said that trishul does not constitute a construction and no action could be taken.

"After inactivity for almost a year, in 2009, the area was dug up to lay the foundation and cast the pillars for the building. Work was stopped in 2010 after Venkatesh, BBMP Executive Engineer (Mahadevapura) visited the site and said that the construction violates the lake buffer zone rule," says Krishna (a copy of Venkatesh’s letter stating this, is with Citizen Matters). The work was stopped again this year after BBMP officials visited the site.

Krishna says that M K Aiyappa, Deputy Commissioner (Bangalore Urban), on being contacted, had said that the temple construction was not illegal and the land of about three guntas (3267 sq feet) was granted for the specific purpose of constructing a temple.

B V Satish says that he has already written to K N Devaraj, Joint Commissioner (Mahadevpura zone) to maintain the buffer of 30 m from the lake. "We have not gotten any response yet," says Satish.

Devaraj says that he has stopped the construction work about 10 days back. He says that the group had obtained permission for building the temple from the Tahsildar earlier and not from BBMP. "They have applied to us for plan sanction now, but we are not going to approve it due to the buffer zone rule," he says.

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About Navya P K 317 Articles
Navya has 12 years of experience in journalism, covering development, urban governance and environment. She was earlier Senior Journalist, Citizen Matters, and Reporter, The New Indian Express. She has also freelanced for publications such as The News Minute, Factor Daily and India Together. Navya won the All India Environment Journalism Award, 2013, for her investigative series on the environmental violations of an upcoming SEZ in Bengaluru, published in Citizen Matters. She also won the PII-UNICEF fellowship in 2016 to report on child rights in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Navya has an MA in Political Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University, and a PG Diploma from the Asian College of Journalism.

1 Comment

  1. For now the two columns adjoining our layout compound wall have been removed.
    However the violation of buffer zone restrictions and objections to the construction of temple by nearby residents are still not considered before giving such permissions to public structures.

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