Demolitions alone will not help Bengaluru’s flooding problems

The topography of the country’s IT capital Bengaluru, which has drawn attention because of the Congress government’s merciless drive against encroachments in storm water drains (SWDs), will not remain the same.

Bengaluru is set to suffer from a bigger shock with civic agencies identifying 1,101 more unauthorised properties, including palatial buildings, across the city, and they will be razed to the ground over the next one week.  The demolition drive is like a “necessary evil”, as it was long overdue with advantages and disadvantages to the city.   The government has won appreciation for launching the demolition drive, but the issue of flooding will not be solved by demolition alone. But demolition alone is not the answer to end the flooding menace in Bengaluru.

What triggered the sudden demolition was the heavy downpour during the last week of July leading to flooding of low-lying areas.  The encroachments, including buildings, that had come up in land earmarked for storm water drains, prevented the outflow of water resulting in flooding of roads and residential localities. In an effort to prevent a Chennai flood like situation as Bengaluru is set to experience rains for the next two months, the government swung into action, identified the encroachments, and is clearing them on a war footing.  There are four main valleys which discharge water from the city — Challaghatta, Koramangala, Vrishabhavathi and Hebbal — whenever it rains.

Originally streams, the unregulated growth of Bengaluru has converted these valleys into SWDs. It is in these valleys that the unauthorised encroachments have come up, leading to obstruction of water flow.  Though the government was quick to blame 20 officials at various government agencies for not preventing these encroachments, the problem lies with the complexities of managing the city.

In addition to the civic agency Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA), the Bengaluru Metropolitan Region Development Authority (BMRDA), Karnataka Housing Board (KHB) and Bengaluru International Airport Planning Authority (BIAPPA) are all responsible for approving residential layouts and construction of new houses in and around Bengaluru depending on their jurisdictions.

Many of the house owners, who lost their properties in the demolition drive, possess approved building plans, khatas and tax paid receipts.  But the BBMP, citing a nexus between the home owners, real estate developers and various government officials, who approved construction of houses on SWDs, has gone on the offensive. A few affected property owners approached the court seeking relief, but did not get a favourable verdict. The SWDs in Bengaluru city limits are connected to SWDs in these erstwhile municipalities where encroachments of government land are rampant. In some places, the SWDs terminate abruptly, leading into a residential township instead of a lake.

There are plenty of errors like these on the ground, and demolishing residential structures within the city alone will not solve the problem. Until the government aligns the different SWDs in the city and outlying localities to ensure complete outflow of rain water, the issue of flooding will not be solved. The government needs to take a macroscopic view of the problem and undertake long-term plans.

For now, it seems to be satisfied by demolishing encroachments in the city limits. The Congress government has won appreciation as well as criticism for launching the demolition drive. But to ensure that the problem does not recur, it has to usher in seamless cooperation between the stakeholders of the city.

Credits Daily Mail

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