“After the heavy showers last week we found a snake near our house, frightening everybody, especially the children, who spotted it in our parking area,” said Mrs Bhanu Narendra, of Sir M.V. Nagar, near Ramamurthy Nagar, her eyes filled with fear.
After frantic calls to a snake catcher, the cobra was caught and released into the wild. Mrs Narendra has no doubt that the snake was from the vacant site opposite her house. “We have seen snakes hatch eggs in the plot. Repeated complaints to the BBMP have fallen on deaf ears. Although it has for years been asking vacant plot owners to keep them clean and free of garbage and debris, nothing has changed,” she regretted.
Sadly, the problem is not confined to M V Nagar as vacant sites all around the city have become a breeding ground of snakes and rats, proving a huge nuisance to the people living in their neighbourhoods. Worse, the recent rains have encouraged snakes to come out of the bushes on the plots and enter nearby houses or even coil around cars and bikes. In the process, snake catchers are greatly sought after these days.
Mr N. Mukund, secretary of a civic group, Citizens’ Action Forum (CAF) points out that the BBMP has been talking for years about slapping a fine on empty plot owners, who don’t keep them clean, but has done nothing about it.
“The BBMP also once announced that it would clean up the empty plots and collect the cost and penalty involved through property tax from the owners. But it does not even have a database of the owners of vacant properties across the city. When it has failed to collect property tax from the plot owners, it is talking of levying a penalty on them,” he rued, suggesting that the BBMP first prepare a database of the plot owners and then act on its plans.
“All the vacant sites must be mapped with the help of GPS in the wards and ward engineers told to update the data when a building plan is sanctioned. This way, the BBMP can collect tax and make sure the plots are cleaned,” he added.
Ask a BBMP officer and he admits the agency has received numerous complaints about hundreds of empty plots in the city becoming infested with snakes and rodents. “We have started issuing notices to the owners of the empty plots, asking them to clean them and act responsibly for the convenience to their neighbours. We have also decided to slap fines starting from Rs 25,000 on the plot owners who don’t fall in line. The penalty can go upto even Rs 1 lakh,” the official said, pointing out that the BBMP was empowered to file a criminal case too against such plot owners under the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act.
Claiming that the civic agency was determind to act this time, he said the owner would be given 15 days to clean up his vacant plot, fence it and install a board to stop people from littering on it.
“If the plot owner does not take notice, the BBMP will clean up the area and besides levying a fine, will recover the cost involved from him,” he asserted. But the only problem with this assurance is that it has been made before with no real outcome. It’s anybody’s guess if the BBMP will keep its word this time.
We’ll serve notice on owners, make them fall in line: Gangambike Mallikarjun
Q Empty plots have become a headache for people in their neighbourhoods as they have become breeding grounds of snakes and rodents with people dumping their garbage on them.
A: Yes. In my ward, Jayanagar, too people are complaining of this problem with vacant plots. It is due to the negligence of the landowners that these sites are overgrown with weeds and attract rodents and reptiles. Also, people find it very easy to dump their garbage stuffed in plastic bags on them or deposit their construction debris on them at night.
Q So what action has been taken to stop this?
Under the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, we are
empowered to take action against the owners of such plots. They can be fined for poor maintenance of the plots as under the rules they must clear them of weeds and fence them to stop them from being used for dumping of garbage and construction debris.
Q How many plot owners have been served notice and fined?
A: As of now, we have not started issuing notices and slap fines. Soon our men will be issuing individual notices to the owners and then follow it up till they fall in line.