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Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Construction work banned around Hesaraghatta Lake
Correspondent : Niranjan Kaggere

Nelamangala Planning Authority warns against investing in real estate within 1km radius from the banks of Arkavati and Kumudvati rivers. Activists say notice is an eye-wash

Not far from the banks of Hesaraghatta Lake where trees and open grasslands existed, a concrete jungle now stands. Villas in gated communities, apartment complexes, residential layouts and hundreds of small and medium scale industries have mushroomed in the once-pristine stretch between Thippagondanahalli (TG Halli) Reservoir and Hesaraghatta Lake.

With Namma Metro spreading its reach till Dasarahalli, real estate activities have only gained momentum. Green activists have been crying themselves hoarse and although several authorities, including the courts, have attempted to put an end to the illegal construction activity, very little progress has been made.

But now the Nelamangala Planning Authority (NPA) has taken notice. The authority has issued a notification banning all kinds of commercial activity within a one kilometre radius of the banks of Arkavati and Kumudvati rivers. The authority has also cautioned people against buying property in the area.

Such a notification is not new. The state government, in a bid to ensure no hindrance to water flowing in the Arkavati and Kumudvati rivers, had banned all kinds of commercial activities including industries and construction within a one-km radius of from the banks of the rivers. Yet, norms were flouted and several illegal private layouts and townships had popped. It remains to be seen how NPA will police its own rules.

"Last month we issued the notification banning all kinds of commercial activities," a senior NPA official said. "As per rules, only agricultural activities are permitted in the notified area. If residents wish to take up other agriculture-related activity, they must obtain prior permission from the authority. However, it has come to our notice that several people have been illegally developing layouts and sites. We caution people not to buy or invest in such ventures. The authority should not be held responsible for any future legal action."

Sources in NPA revealed that more than 10 illegal layouts have been formed within the notified area and several small-scale industries have been functioning. "The details of the notified land have been made available to the public through the Karnataka Pollution Control Board office, gram panchayats and zilla panchayats. People must verify details before purchasing or investing in the region," the official said.

However, Arkavati rejuvenation campaign activists claim the notification is just make-believe. "The notification is nothing but a deception which they have been doing every year," said Doddy Shivaram who has been at the forefront of the rejuvenation campaign. "Officials have failed to restrict land sharks from encroaching catchment areas. In fact last year (2013) the High Court of Karnataka had issued a directive to evict all encroachments in this stretch. Till today, no action has been taken. A total of 11 departments are party to the conservation of area including the BDA, BMRDA, BIAPA, KSPCB and BWSSB. The departments are supposed to meet once a month to check encroachment activities and submit a report to the BDA. So far they have met only thrice and that too only after the local community raised issues."

Activists blamed local politicians for clandestinely supporting illegal real estate activities in the vicinity. "If not for these local leaders and corrupt officials, land sharks would not have encroached on the catchment area," an activist said. "Officials take no action, but every year they issue such notifications and wash their hands off the matter."

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