Floods – BDA cautious on removal of encroachments from SWDs

With chief minister Siddaramaiah blaming encroachments on storm water drains (SWD) and lakes for the severe flooding in some parts of the city – the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) has decided to adopt the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) order to maintain a buffer zone around drains and lakes. It is treading cautiously, however, because builders have challenged the order in the Supreme Court. Though the BBMP commissioner has asked his team to follow the orders strictly, the BDA wants to wait till the government brings in an amendment to the BDA Act.

The real estate sector has already started feeling the heat. Most high-rise apartments in the city have come up near SWDs or lakes; in most cases, builders have not adhered to the buffer zone requirement.

Additional chief secretary Mahendra Jain (urban development department) issued an order on May 17 asking the BDA, BBMP and district administration to coordinate and mark the boundaries of all SWDs and lakes. He also ordered officials not to issue plans, change land use or allow any kind of developmental activity around buffer zones.

On Wednesday, the BBMP commissioner N Manjunatha Prasad ordered town planning officials and ward engineers to strictly follow the orders.

When contacted, BDA engineer PN Nayak said the proposal prepared by the consultancy services was still under consideration and no concrete decision had been taken.

“However, some builders challenged the NGT order and approached the Supreme Court. We need to wait for the outcome. Moreover, there are also some hurdles before the order can be implemented. The state government has to make an amendment to the BDA Act,” he added.

The NGT delivered its judgment on May 4, 2016, calling the buffers assigned by the revised master plan (RMP) 2015, unscientific, and ordered that the water bodies maintain buffer zones starting from the edge of the water body. The NGT also ordered that this buffer/green zone would be treated as a no-construction zone for all intents and purposes, and that existing structures be removed. However, the consultancy service hired by the BDA, which is preparing the revised master plan (RMP) for Bengaluru 2031 on the direction of NGT, has mapped all existing water bodies as seen from satellite imagery and revenue maps.

According to the documents accessed by media, the firm, based on relevant research done overseas, observed that in some developed countries and in many Indian cities, the buffer zone around water bodies depended on soil type, slope, flora and fauna, and size of the water bodies.

In July 1985, an expert committee headed by Lakshman Rao, and constituted by the state government, reviewed the lakes of Bengaluru. It recommended that lakes should not be polluted by discharge of effluents and industrial waste; and recommended necessary steps for the creation of infrastructure needed to reduce lake pollution. The committee recommended that lakes already breached were to be converted to parks, and not be used for the formation of sites.

Meanwhile, the BDA, BBMP and minor irrigation development department, and lake development authority were entrusted with developing lakes in the city. The Revised master plan (RMP) 2015, provides 50m from the middle of the primary rajakaluves, 25m in the case of secondary rajakaluves, while this range is 30m in the case of lakes. However, RMP 2015 is ambiguous on drain and water body networks, and makes no mention of these.

WHAT REVENUE MAPS FOUND

* Some water bodies, lakes and streams, do not exist on revenue maps due to developmental activity.
* The extent/alignment of some of the water bodies, lakes and streams, as per the revenue maps, do not match satellite imagery.
* Some of the large water bodies and lakes, as seen from the satellite imagery, are not found on revenue maps.
* The areas adjoining water bodies, lakes and streams are fully developed, with no buffers and no scope for providing or earmarking a buffer zone.
* Some roads have been built on the streams/lakes as per revenue maps. For example, the Outer Ring Road (ORR) near Bellandur has been built over a water body.

Credits Bangalore Mirror

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