Citizens protest against Mantri’s apartment plan next to Sankey Lake

Various citizen groups get together to protest the construction of Mantri Apartments near Sankey lake. Pic: Pavan Kulkarni

On Sunday morning, May 3rd, over 250 residents of Malleshwaram and Sadashivnagar area marched around the Sankey lake on the walking path, shouting slogans and holding placards, denouncing the Mantri Developers that is likely to constructed an apartment beside the lake and demanding that the Sankey lake be saved.

Sankey Walkers association, Malleshwaram Swabhimana Initiative (MSI), Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF), Sadashivnagar Residents Welfare Association, Citizen’s Action Forum (CAF) and a number of other organisations came together to form a Save Sankey Forum that organised this protest.

‘We will not allow Mantri to construct here at any cost’

Addressing the crowd and the media that had gathered, Advocate Chidananda Kulkarni said that the land was transferred to Mantri group illegally. “Every inch of this land belongs to the people and not to private builders. Certainly not to Mantri Builders who have flouted the rules everywhere they have constructed anything,” he said.

“The land was supposed to be returned to the Forest Department if the company to which it was initially sold went out of business. But that company, after going out of business, skillfully partnered with another company, pretending it was never defunct,” Advocate Kulkarni said.

“We will not allow Mantri to construct here at any cost. Even if they do, we will ensure no one will buy it,” he said, to which one of the protestors added, “Sooner or later we will bring that building down like those in the Sarakki lake area were.”

‘We will fight against this construction both in legal and public forum’

Ramaswamy V.N, a member of Malleshwaram RWA, said, “The land was sold to MITL (which was later amalgamated with IDL and finally renamed as Gulf Oil Corporation) on the condition that it has to be returned to the forest department when it went defunct, and had no permission to sell it. But a Secretary in the government gave them a free hand to sell the land without taking cabinet’s approval.”

“We will fight against this construction both in legal and public forum. An underground channel brings water to this lake from IISc. If this channel is blocked by the construction, it is only a matter of time before the lake dries out. We will not let that happen. Sankey is sacred for us. People have used this place for walking for decades,” said Ramaswamy.

Environmental concerns articulated on a protestor’s T-shirt. Pic: Pavan Kulkarni

“We may even build a Burj Khalifa. But can we build another lake like this?”

Sridhar Pabbisetty, CEO of Namma Bengaluru Foundation, asked, “From where will the 400 apartments get water? How and where will they discharge their sewage? Can the roads here handle the traffic if 400 houses get their vehicles on the road?”

“We may even build a Burj Khalifa. But can we build another lake like this?” he asked, earning cheers from the protesters. “Hundreds of houses have been recently demolished in Sarakki for encroaching the lake area. We must learn our lessons before it is late again.” 

Sumathi Rao, President of Malleshwaram Swabhimana Initiative, a community welfare organisation, said, “The Mysore Maharaja gave a part of this land to MITL to build a pharmaceutical company which can provide medicines for the poor at an affordable price. But there was no pharmacy built, no medicines offered. What we will have instead is Mantri apartments here.”

She also said, “A KSPCB tribunal had questioned Mantri Developers how they will handle the Sewage. Apparently they will build a Sewage Treatment Plant. But there is no cement that is not porous. The tribunal declared that even with the STP, Sankey lake will still be polluted and ordered no apartments should come up in the vicinity of the lake.”

Ask Lokayukta to step in

Mulla Halli Suri, Chairman of Parisara Parampara Trust, said that they will petition the Lokayukta to look into how the forest land came to be transferred, and how the right to sell it was given to the company. “Who colluded in this venture, and who has taken bribes, are some of the questions that need to be investigated,” he said.

While some protesters accused that the land was transferred illegally, others argued that the loopholes in the law were skillfully utilised to facilitate this transfer. But how exactly was the land transferred? And why did the government fail in its attempts to regain the land? Find out here.

Read about Mantri’s Bellandur-Agara SEZ project here.

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Mantri’s 72 acre project encroaching Rajakaluve: IISc report
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About Pavan Kulkarni 22 Articles
Pavan Kulkarni was associated with Citizen Matters as a staff journalist.