BBMP to take possession of encroached portions of lakes
The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is getting ready to crack down on encroachments and reclaim lake beds and surrounding areas that fall under its jurisdiction.
Civic Commissioner B.H. Anil Kumar said that as per directions of the High Court of Karnataka, the BBMP has uploaded certified survey sketches and encroachment details of over 100 lakes under six zones on its website.
“Most of the lakes have been encroached upon over a period of time. We will soon start taking possession of the encroached portions. We have been directed to submit the details to the High Court and the National Green Tribunal (NGT),” he said.
The commissioner has directed assistant executive engineers to inspect all lakes and compile information regarding encroachments
Mohan Krishna, Chief Engineer (lakes), BBMP, said that apart from the public notice that has been issued, individual notices will also be served. “This drive against encroachments will be conducted in a phased manner over the next few months. Initially, we have identified 40 lakes, five lakes each from the eight zones, and will start issuing notices for people to vacate the encroached portion. We will take possession as per law,” he said.
The BBMP estimates that the entire process will take at least 40 days for the first phase alone. However, no date has been set for commencement of the drive.
List yet to be updated
The list put up on the BBMP website is not complete and will be updated. “We have survey reports of over 200 lakes in the city and only over a 100 have been uploaded. If the name of the lake is not there on the list, it does not mean that the lake is not encroached.”
Another senior BBMP official said that the scale of the drive in each area will depend on the nature of the encroachment. “For example, the original area of Chikkabegur lake was 32 acres and 19 guntas, of which four acres and four guntas have been encroached upon by private parties,” the official said.
The exercise will prove to be challenging as officials admit that even government agencies are guilty of encroaching lake beds and surrounding areas.
Public can access the survey sketches and encroachment details of lakes at http://bbmp.gov.in/en/adlr
‘Exercise needs political and bureaucratic will’
Lake activists and environmental groups remain sceptical of the drive, as this is not the first time the BBMP has attempted to tackle the problem of encroachments. In 2016, it undertook a massive drive to remove encroachments on stormwater drains (SWD). Several houses and commercial properties were razed amidst allegations of discrimination in favour of malls and buildings. The government later directed BBMP officials to remove only encroachments on channels linking lakes that were causing inundation.
V. Ramprasad, co-founder and convenor of Friends of Lakes, said that execution of the notice was important. “We have seen in the past how encroachment drives were stopped midway as occupants used loopholes in the law to get stay orders. Also, now that they have all the survey details, officials responsible for allowing encroachments must be prosecuted,” he said, adding that a lot of political and bureaucratic will was needed for the success of the drive.
Welcoming the move, Leo Saldanha of the Environment Support Group said that the BBMP should now clear encroachments of SWD. “We will compare the survey details put up by the BBMP with the survey report of the Environment Management and Policy Research Institute (EMPRI), and also other older reports we have,” he said.