After the High Court, it is anti-corruption body Lokayukta’s turn to monitor stormwater drain projects in the city. To check the preparedness of civic authorities in handling drain water gushing into houses, Upa Lokayukta Justice Subash B Adi visited seven low-lying areas in the city and later expressed displeasure over the SWD works carried out by various civic authorities.
He pulled up BBMP, BWSSB and BDA officials for their ‘lackadaisical’ attitude in handling the situation and said: “The authorities are literally turning Bangalore into a slum. Stormwater is mixed with sewage water everywhere and is seen gushing into the houses of people living close by. They (civic authorities) have failed to provide a decent living environment and a better standard of life for people living in slums. People are made suffer every day,” he adds.
Based on a petition by S Umesh, president of the Five-year Law Course Advocates Association, the High Court had earlier asked authorities to clear the encroachments and directed the petitioner to monitor the implementation. Even the recently-released CAG report indicated lapses in the implementation of SWD projects and misuse of funds meant for them.
Adi visited the Lakshman Rao Nagar slum on Hosur Road, Shanthinagar bus depot area, Russel Market in Shivajinagar, Ramachandrapura near Devi Talkies, Gali Anjaneya Temple on Mysore Road, Nayanandahalli and Outer Ring Road on Mysore Road.
Complaining about the situation, 70-year-old Valliamma from the Lakshman Rao Nagar slum said that despite several complaints to officials, they had turned a blind eye. “During the rainy season, sewage water enters my house. My grandchildren fall sick very often. How do they expect us to live in such bad living conditions?” she questions.
Even as complaints poured before Adi during his visit, BBMP chief engineer H C Ananthaswamy and BWSSB engineer-in-chief Venkataraju, who were present during the inspection, had ready excuses which the Upa Lokayukta found unconvincing.
The authorities cited that encroachment on SWDs and dumping of garbage in the drains were the major reasons for delays and non-implementation of SWD projects.
“I have lived here for the past six years. Even last week, when it rained heavily, drainage water gushed into my shop. I have incurred a loss of `8,000. Who shall I hold responsible and what can we expect from the authorities?” questions another resident in the same area.
Adi noticed that though the desilting of SWDs had been done, the silt was again dumped alongside the SWDs, yielding no result. He also expressed shock after seeing sewage water enter a school in Ramachandrapura, even when it had not rained.
The Lokayukta has taken cognizance of the complaints and will monitor the SWD projects being implemented by BBMP to ensure Right to Life to the people living in areas abutting stormwater drains. The Right to Housing is a fundamental right as per the Constitution. The authorities have to improve the living condition of people residing in the slum and not give them houses with filth around. It serves no purpose, said Lokayukta Justice Bhaskar Rao.
According to officials, if the stormwater is treated, around 500 mld (million litres per day) of water can be reused, catering to the needs of 40 lakh people in the city. Adi suggested maintaining a 30 ft buffer area along the SWDs with a green zone and treating water at various intervals instead of just one single location.
“The authorities have promised to complete certain works by 2014. We will fix a time limit after analysing the complexities and certainly take action if they fail to abide by the deadlines,” Adi says.