BBMP, we know, has a plan to remodel storm water drains (SWDs) of Bengaluru. While BBMP is still working on the Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) and fund mobilisation to remodel the Rajakaluves, there seems to be somebody else working hard to remodel the major storm water drain that connects Madiwala lake to Bellandur lake, in South Bengaluru.
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Citizen Matters team happened to see a major work going on with JCBs digging the earth, in the eastern border of Koramangala ward. Curiously, from a building nearby, it appeared as if there was an alternative smaller channel being dug parallel to the existing major storm water drain.
The work was going on inside a barricaded site. The major storm water drain is the one that comes from HSR Layout, and joins Madiwala lake to Bellandur lake. The location falls under BBMP South Zone. The place where the work is going on is just next to the drain, that separates the BBMP South and Bommanahalli Zones.
When enquired, some of the staff working at the project site said that they are working to lay two big cylindrical pipelines to divert the water “temporarily.” After this, the channel would be closed “temporarily” to build an approach road.
The construction site inside the barricades does not have a direct road access, which is why the builder planned to build an approach road or a bridge. Every major constructions need such arrangements many times, which are done by taking proper permissions.
‘BWSSB to be blamed!’
In this case, it was not clear whether there was permission from anyone. Another representative of Advaitha Ventures Private Limited with whom Citizen Matters spoke over phone refused to accept that there was any such work. Instead they pointed towards BWSSB, saying that the BWSSB is setting up an STP.
A call to the number placed on the barricades confirmed that a 12-floor apartment, Advaitha Akshaya, by Advaitha Ventures Private Limited, is coming up off Sarjapur Road. However, the marketing person who spoke did not reveal the exact location. The project would be launched in March 2014.
Storm water drains can’t be altered
However, according to rules, no storm water drain can be closed or its path be altered, without explicit permission to do so, by the competent authorities. BBMP has already got the storm water drains in Bangalore surveyed by STUP, the consultants, and has a plan in place to remodel and restore the SWDs. In such a situation, altering the SWD structure without permissions is not allowed.
Also, the reduction in the size of the drain would result in clogging of the drain and water logs during rains, and would lead to flooding in the area that lies behind the project space. The adjacent land, belonging to Manipal ETA Infotech (Mantri Techzone Private Limited), has been manipulated in a similar way by filling a drain and recreating another channel nearby. There is also a PIL filed by Namma Bengaluru Foundation in this regard. The rule applies to all the builders and individuals alike, across Bangalore.
Moreover, as BBMP is directly in charge of storm water drains in the city and can not allow such things to happen. If a bridge or road has to be built, even if it is temporary, the permission needs to be sanctioned from the Town Planning department of BBMP.
Not the handiwork of BWSSB
When Citizen Matters contacted BWSSB officials, nobody was aware of the project. Multiple calls to various officials in BWSSB finally proved that the work in fact was not undertaken by BWSSB.
Chief Engineer of Cauvery Section, BWSSB, S Krishnappa said, “We are constructing an STP at Agaram, KLC valley. We (Cauvery section) are not digging up anything.” After seeing the photos and maps of the location, he confirmed that the work did not look like the work undertaken by the BWSSB, as certain standards did not seem to be followed. Another Assistant Engineer Rajiv too confirmed the same.
BBMP, BDA unaware of the work
When contacted, BBMP South Zone Joint Commissioner, V J Kumar feigned ignorance about this ongoing work and said that the area doesn’t fall under his jurisdiction but under Bommanahalli Zone.
Bommanahalli Zone Joint Commissioner N Muniraju was sure that the area falls under BBMP South Zone. He double-checked and verified this with his Chief Engineer about the boundary of Bommanahalli zone, and said the drain divides the two zones. He was sure that he hadn’t given any permissions to Advaitha Ventures Private Limited. However, he promised to ask his engineers to inspect the location.
The area however, is a meeting point of East, South, Bommanahalli and Mahadevpura zones. It lies between Koramangala, Ejipura, Jakkasandra and Agaram wards. So it is not clear who has jurisdiction over this particular area.
BBMP Chief Engineer for Storm Water Drain section, H C Ananthaswamy, when contacted, said he was not aware of the project. “I don’t know about it. Ask the Town planning engineers how the construction is coming up and what action will they take,” he directed Citizen Matters.
“One can build his house anywhere on his property provided all the rules and regulations have been followed. BBMP must already have checked the plan, without which a construction of such a large scale will not take place. If the local authorities notice any violation, they will freeze the construction. You need to know whether the property has got any plan approval,” he added.
He explained that natural drains cannot be diverted. “We have been inspecting areas for encroachment of drains on the basis of the old map drawn on 1924 by Survey Map of India. We have completed inspection of core area, peripheral areas are yet to be finished,” he revealed.
A call to the BDA commissioner resulted in the ball being thrown back to the BBMP’s court.
Town Planning engineers promise action
Chowdegowda, Additional Director of Town Planning Section, BBMP, said that generally, for all projects inside BBMP limits, BDA approves the development plan and then the license is given by BBMP. Even if the property is under BBMP limit, development plans above 5 acres for residential purpose and above 3 acres for commercial purpose need BDA approval too.
He added that usually alterations to minor drains are allowed if the flow of the water is less. “There is no harm in modifying the flow of the drain if an alternate provision for flow is made and it doesn’t lead to flooding in the area,” he clarified.
However, the drain in question is a major drain, and Chowdegowda was not aware of any permissions given. He promised to look into the files on the next BBMP working day, that is Thursday, December 26, 2013. Koramangala section Assistant Executive Engineer Pujari too promised to inspect the site on the same day.
Last seen, after digging the 100-metre long stretch, the work had moved to the other side of the drain. Small vegetation growth in the drain was getting cleaned up. The engineer working in the site said: “We will break the thin mud wall between the drain and the newly dug channel, and allow the water to flow through the new channel. Once the flow of water is diverted, permanent walls will built on the other side of the drain. Coiling of the wall will take two months. Once the wall is ready we will re-direct the drain to its original path.”
Even if this work has permission, if the process does not complete in two months, or before the rain, or if an untimely rain blesses Bangalore, it appears to result in water-logging in the area, as the size of the alternative channel is much smaller than the existing storm water drain.
Editor’s note: On December 27 2013, after Citizen Matters published this report, Koramangala section AEE Pujari inspected the spot and told Citizen Matters that Advaitha Ventures Private Limited have indeed taken the required permissions from the town planning section.