Bengaluru: House Committee on Tank Encroachment and Rejuvenation, Chairman, K. B. Koliwad on Friday named many big names in the real estate sector for allegedly encroaching lakes in and around city. The names include Sobha Developers, Brigade Group, Prestige Group, Adarsh Developers, DS Max Group, Bagmane Tech Park, among others.
The committee has not even spared government agencies such as Bengaluru Development Authority and BBMP, as these two agencies are major encroachers among the government departments. Both private and government agencies together encroached 10,472 acre, while various government agencies have encroached 3,287 acres and private builders, including slum dwellers, have encroached 7,185 acres in the city.
According to the Committee the encroached land value is estimated at more than `1.5 lakh crore. Doresani Palya Lake was encroached upon by the BDA and developed as a layout with sites allotted to Assembly Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa and Chief Minister Siddaramaiah himself. Though Mr Thimmappa retained the site, Mr Siddaramaiah sold his site sometime back.
Mr Koliwad told reporters that the IT boom contributed to the greed of these private builders and this led to the encroachment of lakes in and around the city.
“During our investigations it was revealed that several forged documents were fabricated within no time to aid these encroachments,” he said.
According to him, Bengaluru Urban and Bengaluru Rural districts together had 1,545 lakes, 2,000 small water bodies and rivulets, which measured around 3,000 acres. “All in all 11,595 encroachment cases have been identified, which not only include government agencies or private builders but even slum dwellers. Therefore we have issued show-cause notices to all 11,595 people, including builders and common people involved in these alleged encroachments. The last date for them to respond to our notice is by the end of this month,” he said in response to a question.
After obtaining the reports, the committee will give a final report within three months. The committee is likely to recommend seizure of the assets of officers involved in lake encroachments.
The disclosure of names of big realtors and details of encroachments during the press conference on Friday raised questions rather than clear the doubts. Generally, the House committees do not hold press conferences before submitting the final reports to the Speaker. On Friday, the committee did not give an interim report or the final report to the Speaker. One of the members, who refused to come on record told Deccan Chronicle that the committee wanted to wipe out the negative campaign being spread against the committee that it was doing nothing. Friday’s press conference was an attempt to clear this, he said.
The synopsis circulated among the media did not have any details of companies that allegedly encroached upon tank beds. However, details were orally shared. This raised question as to why such critical information was not shared. The sudden disclosure ahead of the crucial elections to taluk and zilla panchayats may raise many questions about the political ramifications and the future actions involving this information.
We will prove our point: Suresh Hari, secretary, CREDAI
The Koliwad Committee may have released a survey report, but who knows the basis of this report? The findings of the report are subject to interpretation and have their own issues. At the end of the day, who has sanctioned the buildings and who has verified the title? These are all the acts of the state government and its agencies and we have nothing to worry about. We have procured the land legally, and if the Committee says some of the buildings are on encroached land, we have to remember that it’s not the builder who encroached upon it. We will ensure that the safety of property owners is protected by the association and its builder-members. We have time and again said that our properties were constructed with due diligence. Let the Committee prove that our properties are constructed on encroached land and if it says we are wrong, we will prove our merit and show them we are right. The state government is waking up now and saying that some of the layouts and apartment complexes are constructed on encroached land -- this is nothing but harassment. However, having said that, CREDAI feels it’s a challengeable report given by the Committee.
Shut down BDA: Ashwin Mahesh, Urban planning expert
The K.B Koliwad Committee has said that the BDA has allotted 65,000 sites on encroached lake beds and over 3,287 acres of land has been encroached by the government bodies itself. Now, what the Committee does not tell us is how these bodies and officials concerned went about the encroachment. The problem is the BDA is both the planning and implementation authority. When the BDA itself is the judge, to decide what job has to be done and how good the job is, where is the question of quality? There are no strengths, skills or trust to the works carried out by the BDA. The solution to this would be in shutting down the BDA. Or at least, it should no longer acquire land but should get involved in infrastructure development. The magnitude of land encroachment and irregularities is so massive that though there are right solutions, they cannot be implemented. Punishment for encroachments cannot be inflicted in accordance to the scale of the encroachments. How can we punish the British for colonialism? The officials who let the encroachments happen have retired and they will say it was not their fault. Maybe we can move the court and the BDA can be penalized. But there’s no way to inflict punishment to the scale of encroachments. The BDA has become a broker agency and it understands that more brokering brings more income. It’s earning its revenue from brokerage and this has to be put to an end.
Demolish all encroachments: V. Balasubramanya, former chairman, Special Task Force
Whether buildings on lake beds have been constructed with government’s consent or not, all illegal buildings have to be demolished. For instance, in Maharashtra, the High Court ordered that encroachments on the banks of the Mithi River have to be demolished and the court order was followed accordingly. Despite land rates being higher in Maharashtra, the encroachments were razed. So, there should be no excuse in Bengaluru; no yielding even to the claims of innocent builders. The individual plot owners should have known that the BDA is a corrupt organization -- when buying plots from them, they should be extra cautious. There’s a legal principle called – ‘buyers beware’ and this should have been followed by individual plot owners. If the state government starts regularizing layouts under the pretext of humanitarian grounds, there will be no end to such regularisation. And getting permissions from government agencies even for an illegal plot is not a tough task any more. If all the violations are regularized in the city, one day, people will have to be evacuated as Bengaluru will start flooding due to the absence of lake beds. Private builders will be aware of the violations and there should be no question of regularizing any layouts or constructions, even if it’s sanctioned by a government agency.
Public consultation next step: Suresh Kumar MLA, member of Koliwad Committee
We have the data for over 4,000 lakes and the Committee members visited 19 lakes in the city. Interestingly, during our survey, it came to our notice that many lakes have dried up 25 years ago and there’s no way water will accumulate in these lakes again. The Committee is in a fix whether such lakes should still be considered lakes or whether we should allow the layouts to flourish. In the first step, we have released the findings of the survey report and we are yet to tackle the issue of layouts that were formed by the BDA. Since BDA is a government agency, owners who have brought plots from the BDA must be rehabilitated. We have held detailed discussions with the revenue department officials regarding this, and now the officials have been directed to hold public consultations in order to gather objections, feedback and opinions from citizens. Meanwhile, we have also instructed the Revenue department to look for alternatives. We are trying to find out feasible solutions to decide the next course of action.
Brigade Group denies allegation
The Brigade Group has strongly denied the report alleging that it had encroached a lake. The realty firm said it was a mischievous and motivated report. “As a responsible real estate developer of repute for over 29 years, Brigade group has been taking great care to save lakes and conserve the environment. In fact, as part of our CSR Initiatives, Brigade Group has recently rejuvenated 24 acres of Sitharampalya Lake in Whitefield,” the company said. We also wish to inform you that Brigade Group recently won two national awards instituted by CREDAI India for its Corporate Social Responsibility. We won the Environmental Impact Award for the rejuvenation of the Sitharampalya Lake in Whitefield and the redevelopment of the Sangolli Rayanna Park in Malleswaram and the social infrastructure award for the redevelopment of the Sri Nadaprabhu Kempegowda Playground in Malleswaram and the Skywalk with escalator across Dr. Rajkumar Road in Rajajinagar,” the company added.
Download the all new Deccan Chronicle app for Android and iOS to stay up-to-date with latest headlines and news stories in politics, entertainment, sports, technology, business and much more from India and around the world....