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The Koramangala 'lake' saga

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Governance

There is the huge tract of land of 37 acres on the left when you come down BDA complex in Koramangala, while heading towards Wipro park. Just last week the Chief Minister has denotified the entire land in favour of the erstwhile land lord, inspite of orders at the Supreme Court level against any such act. Alongwith the landsharks, the CM seems to have no qualms whatsoever about putting at peril the interests of the citizens.

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The following is the mail a prominent member of the Koramangala community sent on the subject on the community Yahoogroup (based on a note - appended further below - sent to a select few by a retired bureucrat and resident of Koramangala, who once held the position of Chairman of BDA):

Some of you might know of the continuing saga of the "lake" area in 3rd block (this is on the left as you come down from BDA complex - where there is a nursery of sorts). This case has been going on for over 5/6 years, up to Supreme court and back. Koramangla Initiative (through an advocate) has been funding a PIL, which we thought till now was going in the right direction. Our prayer, simple enough, was to keep it as open space/ park etc.

While the legal issue in this case is too long to elucidate in this mail, this is just a heads up, on the latest develeopment.

The government (not BDA) in at all its wisdom, has chosen to de-notify this area and give it back to original owner. This happened a few days ago. We know of 6.21 acres de-notified, but we believe that the total extent might run up to 32 odd acres.

This after the Supreme court and High court had already declared that this property belongs to the BDA (which means the citizens), and also an interim order from the High court, which states that this property is not to be alloted to anyone!

We are taking a review of startegy and will soon contest this de-notification order, but the script is getting increasingly complex. We will need, as it unfolds further, at least 2 initiatives, from the citizens of Koramangala:
a) A show of strength, in signatures, physical presences, to highlight this absolutley questionable action by the government.
b) Resources, to up the ante in the legal battle, possibly to bring in a team of senior advocates to assist our lawyer, and perhaps a Supreme court representation.

As said above, this is a quick heads up, and I will post the developments in next few days. I do hope Koramangalaites will support in strength.

The mail from the retired bureaucrat:

I thought I should keep you in the loop about an earth shattering 'neighbourhood" development. There is the huge tract of land of 37 acres on the left when you come down BDA complex in Koramangala, while heading towards Wipro park. Against all odds we fought the erstwhile landlord in the High Court and twice in the Supreme Court during 200-04. The High Court Single Judge, Divison Bench and finally the Supreme Court all ruled in favour of the BDA and upheld the land acquisition. The Supreme Court judgement was delivered just as I was leaving for Mumbai. You will remember that I had wanted to convert the whole place into a park. Well it looks like that's as far as we got. Just last week the Chief Minister has denotified the entire land in favour of the erstwhile land lord. The Supreme has held that once land has been acquired for a public purpose it must be used solely for that public purpose. In case the original public purpose no longer exists it should be used for some other public purpose. In case no public purpose exists then the land should be auctioned and under no circumstances should it be returned to the original landlord. A brazen and patently illegal denotification. Nevertheless, I am trying to mobilise some well meaning people to directly approach the Supreme Court. This requires a lot of time, effort and patience as public outrage subsides as fast as it surfaces

The response from the members of the community has been just overwhelming. The question simply is could such a thing have happened without the direct complicity of the CM himself? Alongwith the land-sharks, he seems to have no qualms whatsoever about putting at peril the interests of the citizens.

And, this is not an isolated case - we are before our very eyes seeing the disappearnce of even the few remaining lake-beds one by one on a daily basis - check this. How do we, the citizens, tell him where he gets off?

Muralidhar Rao

 

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murali772's picture

hats off to sustained citizen action

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Here's an example of how close tracking and sustained action by alert citizens has put a brake on the moves of some land-sharks to grab close to 17 acres of prime public land, whose value in the market could be in the range of Rs 700 cr. Hats off to the members of the Koramangala Initiative, Koramangala 3rd Block Assn, and CAF, who came together to pursue the matter.

The biggest learning from the exercise is how such joint action by citizens motivates and emboldens the dedicated officers in the government into taking requisite action to check-mate the moves of corrupt lot who have been bought off by the land-sharks. Hats off to these government officials too.

The following mail by the same member who posted the earlier mail, details the new developments:

a) First the good news.

We now have in our hands a formal internal letter /document by UDD squashing the earlier denotifcation order on the 6.21 acres. The land reverts back to government.

We are aware there has been some anxiety by many, on delay in filing a writ. We had to go a little slow (while all documents for a writ was in place) because of the behind scene efforts leading to the squashing of the order. We also thought it best not to broadcast these efforts, till they lead to some end results.

b) Does this mean end of the issue:

We are circumspect on this, especially since this whole case has been dragging for over 10 years, with various twists and turns. We are asking our legal counsel to examine this last squashing development to see, if this can lead to fresh litigation and if we can do anything to preempt that if required.

c) What this means. the not so good news

All this means is that we are back to square one on our original PIL, which essentially stakes the claim, to keep this 6.21 acres and the 11acres behind (tank bed) as open area and change the Masterplan 2015, marking this as built up area.( the 1995 CDP showed this a public/semi public/park area).

We just had a bit of diversion, and the overall fight is very much still open.

d) The not good news at all

While all this action has been going on, there is now an active appeal at Supreme Court, challenging the Karnataka High Court order on the 11 acres declaring that as government property and a government tank.

Our fear here is whether the government will fight this case as it needs to be fought. The high court order is extremely telling and in favour of government, but a lot of that was due to our legal counsel, being in court and keeping a check and advising government lawyers.

As of now, there is ground for apprehension, of GOKs intention, shown in the tardy nature of filing objections, and fighting at the submission of appeal itself.

The broad strategy here for us is
i) Implead ourselves as concerned citizens in the Supreme Court. Chances of court allowing us to formally participate is marginal.
ii) As in the high court have a watch on proceedings and feed GOK lawyers.
iii) Ensure through behind the scenes activity that at least one government respondent files objections which are very strong, reflecting fully the high court verdict.

This would possibly entail getting a senior counsel at Supreme Court at the stage of filing for impleading itself.

e) Next steps

Most of the earlier strategies stay, with some modifications.

i) Signature petition to GOK, with the new developments and Supreme Court issue brought forward, but essentially to change Masterplan 2015 definition of this space.
ii) Press interactions on the overall issue. We have already contacted press and they have enough interests.
iii) Funding /resourcing for both PIL in high court and Supreme Court. There have already been some hands up on this.
iv) Fight the Supreme Court issue as defined above.

f) A NOTE

I am aware to the uninitiated that a lot of the above might not have meaning without past information.
Please give me a call for any clarification and details.

I would also like to acknowledge those of you, who have already put their hands up in support.

More later as things unfold.

VM


 

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Whose lung space is it anyway?

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But, even as the government was forced to cancel the denotification, under public pressure (as we would like to believe), the BDA seems to have revived an old plan to convert part of the area into a legislators’ layout – despite a 2001 High Court order directing the BDA to allot alternative sites to legislators since this land was (and remains) under dispute. And despite a 2002 court ruling in another case which held that existing green spaces and civic amenities sites in Koramangala must be kept free of buildings until a minimum 7 per cent of open space (in relation to built-up space) is reached: at the time of the judgment only a pathetic 3 per cent of Koramangala comprised open space.

For the full report in the Bangalore Mirror by Ammu Joseph, click here

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

new twists and turns

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With the Supreme Court not entertaining the appeal (by the land sharks fronted by the original owner of the neighbouring land) against the High Court order reverting the 11 acre stretch of the open area to the BDA with directions to restore it to its original form as a lake, the ground was all set for the task to begin. The overall consensus amongst the community was that the restoration work should ensure as close a 'lie of the land' to the origial, and as close to nature, as possible, in order that it serves the main purpose of flood control, and simultaneous imporovement in the water table in the surrounding areas, while also providing for a much needed lung space in the highly developed locality.

Fearing that, left to itself, the BDA will go in for a 'soup bowl' design, along with its accompanying artificialities, normally seen in all its lake developments, the "Koramangala Initiative" put together a technical team comprising residents and known city experts to draw up a "concept plan" in line with the community's thinking. The tech team did an exhaustive job, covering topopgraphical, hydrological, geographical, geological studies, delving into archival records, conducting fresh surveys, etc, all over some six months and over many meetings, at the end of which it made a presentation of the draft to the local community. Based on the inputs thereof, it finalised the plan, following which the Koramangala Initiative formally handed it over to the BDA Commissioner, requesting that the restoration work be done in overall conformity with it.

The Commissioner forwarded the plan to the LDA for its scrutiny, and subsequently, between them, they lauded the community for the exemplary task undertaken, and in fact went on to suggest that it could become a model for all future lake restoration/ development initiatives in the state.

Now, all that was required thereon was for the BDA to convert the plan into a DPR, which one had thought the BDA had the in-house capacity to undertake, and thereafter, tender out the civil works.

So, even as we were waiting for the BDA to proceed further, we were told that the DPR work was being outsourced to a Mumbai consultancy firm, along with those for some 10 to 20 other lakes. While we were not averse to a professional agency undertaking the job, we were apprehensive about unnecessary cost burdens, BDA after all being funded out of tax payers' money. We asked the BDA officials to set up a three-way meeting between them, the consultants' representatives, and us to formalise our involvement. The BDA officials arranged this in their HSR layout office, where we formally handed over to the consultants' representatives a copy of our Concept plan (BDA had given one already), and stressed on the importance of the DPR being in line with the plan submitted. We also offered to set up meetings with our panel of experts should they require any inputs/ clarifications from any of them.

A month or two after close follow up, the consultants called to say that their draft report was ready, and we could take a look at it, something we had insisted on before their finalisation of the same.

When we went through the draft DPR, the contents came to us as a total shock, to say the least. It was a total sham. It had nothing at all in common with the Concept plan submitted. The consultants had obviously managed to access the soft copy of the DPR for the Kengeri/ Viswabharathi layout, prepared perhaps by the BDA itself, and had done a 'cut-paste' job, and a bad one at that, since it had left too many tell-tale signs. And, for that, they were going to be charging BDA some Rs 75 lakhs. And, all this when they very well knew that the local citizens were very closely involved. This audacity on their part is what is most galling.

A brief analysis of the draft DPR, included in our letter of 16th June submitted to the BDA Commissioner, conveying our overall disquiet over the entire issue, is reproduced below:  

A) Overall Lake Concept

It was clearly agreed we will not follow a "soup bowl" design. The consultant's design is in fact the much more expensive and ecologically unfriendly soup bowl. This one point itself demonstrates that the DPR has not been taken seriously, or even worse prepared for the sole purpose of showing high costs.

B) Wholly wrong design parameters and assumptions

  • Area of existing lake is stated as 7.14 Ha which is non-existent and the proposed lake area is 8.12 Ha.As per site it should be closer to 3 Ha. Consequently most assumptions in the estimates are wrong.
  • The lake and wetland has been designed to inundate the entire site thereby necessitating the killing of all the full grown trees existing at site. As per the drawings the wetland starts right near the main road.
  • The drawings in the DPR are rather vague and non-technical. The depth profiles do not take into account the hydrogeology and the proposed ecology.
  • There is a proposed 30mt buffer in the text of the DPR, but is not reflected in any of the drawings.

C) Indications that the report is fabricated without an actual study.

  • There is no clarity on the diversion of sullage water entering the lake. Instead an unnecessarily expensive requirement of STPs/ TTPs is projected. The DPR mentions of water analysis done to presumably justify the STP. HOWEVER IT IS COMMON KNOWLEDGE THAT THERE IS NO WATER IN THE LAKE FOR ANY SUCH ANALYSIS TO BE DONE AND THERE IS CURRENTLY NO INFLOW INTO THE LAKE.
  • "12mt service road on bund connecting kengeri and Visweshvaraya layout"  -  This is a verbatim quote from the recommendation section of the report. Is any further discussion on this DPR required when the whole exercise is obviously just a "cut and paste" job? Kengeri and Visweshwaraya Layout are part of another valley far removed from Mestrikere.
  • Recommendations of food courts, fountains, double fencing, and stamped concrete pathways are some of the items that are totally extraneous presumably brought in only to escalate costs.

All of the above are just some of the more obvious issues .There are quite a bit more of contradictions and errors in the DPR not mentioned in this note. It must also be mentioned that the consultants see for themselves a fee in the region of Rs 75 lacs (in the region of 15%) of an obviously inflated DPR costing. We as citizens are concerned at this possible waste of public funds.

The pertinent questions that arise are:

  • When almost 80% of the job had already been done, in the form of the Concept Report, and all that was required was conversion of it into a DPR, which one had thought was very much within the capacity of the BDA, with its army of engineers, where was the need to outsource it?
  • If choosing to outsource, why a Mumbai based firm, even whose web-site does not claim any expertise in lake restoration/ development work, when there is enough and more extertise available locally?
  • Now that Mumbai firm stands exposed, will the jobs entrusted to them be cancelled, and the advances paid recalled?


We are now awiting to hear from BDA on the next steps.

It was clear that giving a letter as above to the BDA Commissioner was going to mean further delay in the work, even as the local community had begun dreaming about the restored lake. However, as a prominent member put it, even if it means some more delay, we cannot be afford to be party to such outrageous goings on in our very back-yard, even as there is this country-wide campaign against such misdeeds, led by Anna Hazare, to which we too have been lending our support, even though in our limited capacity.

The New Indian Express carried a brief report on the matter, which may be accessed here.

Muralidhar Rao
rackstar's picture

loss of trees

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Unless if the current design would cause loss of trees BDA can go ahead. Soup bowl or anything, just because we got court order in our favour we cant ask too much. We lost koramangala tank for national games village, we need a lake in koramangala soonest.

dvsquare's picture

We should make people aware of Tandon Urban Solutions (TUSPL)

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Murali Sir,

Can't we go ahead and try to make people aware of this "Tandon Urban Solutions Pvt. Ltd. (TUSPL)'s super duper cons, a con based con-sultancy firm?

I mean, I have tried to google with this company and complaint as the search string, and I found none.

People should know about it, even your blog comment doesn't contain this name. We need to make people aware because otherwise these kind of companies will make govt agencies fool and help them wasting tax-payer's money.

Shall we atleast try to spread this particular piece of work done by them through facebook and twitter?

Deepak

dvsquare's picture

Few links suggesting koramangala story of Tandon Urban solution

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I have also tried googling "Tandon Urban Solutions koramangala", got a few results out of which one is Murali Sir's message in yahoo groups.

mestrikere? whats happening? - which suggests possible blacklisting of Tandon Urban Solutions Pvt. Ltd. (TUSPL).

Mestrikere restoration report flawed: Citizens -

"The association has submitted a letter alleging that the detailed project report (DPR) by Tandon Urban Solutions Private Limited (TUSPL), which had taken the responsibility of the restoration of Mestrikere, is flawed."

 

Deepak

dvsquare's picture

Another cheating case of TUSPL and BDA collectively, today's TOI

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Look at this link in today TOI -

BDA eyes beggars' colony for convention centre

In the report -

After inviting expression of interest from parties for the project, the BDA appointed a Mumbai-based urban infrastructure and management consultancy Tandon Urban Solutions Private Limited (TUSPL) as consultant. Contrary to BDA's claims, a TUSPL spokesperson confirmed that project planning is under way.

Also,

Though the EoI was invited only on May 31, 2011, the spokesperson claimed they've been working on the project since January 2011. He also claimed TUSPL had been operating out of the BDA head office and would charge a success fee, a euphemism for consultancy fee, of 5% of project cost. A high-profile national politician allegedly has stakes in the project.

Now, what to expect out of BDA with the TUSPL, another soup of public cheating?

Deepak

murali772's picture

bane of soup-bowl design

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The recent policy adopted by the BBMP for rejuvenation of lakes and tanks in the city is completely skewed and ineffective as most of the water bodies that have been taken up for restoration have neither regained their pristine glory nor retained the flora and fauna. In fact, the 15 to 20 so-called restored lakes are completely dry and fallow today and have lost all the fish and the catcalls of the migratory birds from across the state.

For the full report in CBN-live, click here.

Quite typical of BDA's "soup-bowl" design approach adopted so far, which is why the expert team put together by us said no to it, and came up with its own "concept plan". Though it has meant some time lost, hopefully, we should have a more natural environment here, which besides requires the minimum maintenance.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Glimmer of hope

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At long last, the Bhoomi Pooja for the restoration work will be performed by Sri Ramalinga Reddy, local MLA and honorable Transport Minister, GoK, at 9.30 AM on Friday, the July, 12th.

Incidentally, a document listing out the recommendations, prepared by Sri S Subramanya, a noted naturalist, who was a key participant in the technical team brought together by the local residents, is accessible here. And, accessible here is a short film on the effort by members of Koramangala Initiative.

Hopefully, within another 6 months, we should have a beautiful kere in the midst of Koramangala - largely a result of persistant citizen effort.

Muralidhar Rao
n's picture

Hats off to people for having

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Hats off to people for having lots of patience (close to 5 years to sort out).  Why politicians continue to give importance to short-term gains like getting some crores kickback and ego than earning long-term goodwill of people, getting elected repeatedly and "earning" continuous smaller kickbacks, is hard to understand.  The latter case is a win-win and benefits eveybody.


Bheema.Upadhyaya's picture

Wonderful news ! Everytime I

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Wonderful news ! Everytime I was passing through, I was speculating about the fate of the land. Good ! Though I am note resident of Koramangala, a learned a lot of things from activities of RWAs there.. 

" My mantra to public bodies=> Enable->Educate->Enforce. Where does  DDC  fit?"
murali772's picture

kere taking shape

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Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

progressing steadily

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Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

an oasis amidst Manhattanisation

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This is what the kere looks like now. The water that has got collected so far is largely through direct precipitation.

The core committee has been moving the BBMP to channelise the rainwater flow from the road-side drains. The work is currently on, and once completed, the lake should fill up more.

Today, the citizens carried out a sapling planting exercise, along the walk-ways.

We are already beginning to see some bird life, and once the lake fills up more, and the saplings grow into trees, this Maestrikere could turn into a real oasis amidst the otherwise Manhattanised Koramangala

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

a new threat

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Even as the kere was beginning to take shape, there has appeared an "announcement on a notice board of a community hall (with a thank you to the former Bengaluru in-charge minister Ramalinga Reddy), a skeletal structure of what looks could be a future temple and a few constructions on the sprawling site: this modusoperandi has LAND GRAB written all over it. All these have come up in a 3.2 acre lake bed", as per a report (accessible here) in the Bangalore Mirror.

The report further adds - When contacted, transport minister (in the new allocated portfolio) Ramalinga Reddy said he was not aware of the fact that his name was being used to build a concrete structure in the lake premises. "I have not given permission to put up anything there," he said; then he added, sounding as if he was justifying a time-tested usurping tactic: "Earlier some people used to come to the spot and perform poojas; maybe they have tried to build a temple out there because of sentimental and religious reasons."

On why there has been no response to the residents' proposal to revive the lake, Reddy said: "The lake development work by the BDA is underway. It will shortly be transferred to the BBMP and all measures will be taken to protect the lake area."

Ajay Reddy, convenor of the committee, said, "We have complained about the issue several times to the BDA Commissioner, the local MLA and other civic authorities. We only got assurances in return. If BDA had finished the project last year itself, they could have handed over the lake area to the BBMP, who would have provided security and fenced the area."


Well, well, it all seems to fit into the typical land grab pattern. Of course, the citizens are not going to be just sitting and watching the goings on, particularly after having gone all the way to the Supreme court to revive the lake.

Tragically, it's from the citizen's representatives and their cronies that kere's in the city seem to need all the protection.

Muralidhar Rao
amithpallavoor's picture

Now that Koramangala is under

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Now that Koramangala is under water, will the republic of Koramangala turn their attention towards this lake and give up on the needless flyover! 

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