BENGALURU: MLA K B Koliwad, chairman of the House committee constituted by the Speaker to study lake encroachments, speaks to Bengaluru Express about the challenges that the committee faces.
How essential is it to study the encroachments on rajakaluves?
During a flood, the water will inevitably collect in the tanks. By removing the encroachments on the rajakaluves, we ensure greater connectivity and can prevent flooding. The maps authorised by the Government of India show the encroachments on rajakaluves in villages more clearly. It’s easy to spot them as there are only a few houses built on them, unlike in central areas, where there is widespread development. Where the connections flow from and their length can easily be identified through village maps. So far, 175 out of 250 villages have been surveyed to locate the rajakaluves there.
What is the fate of properties around the lakes if there is an eviction drive?
As the first step, we are going to publish the bank areas and encroachers’ names in the official gazette and the media in the next four days. We are going to issue notices to them, asking them to cite reasons for occupying the areas. We want to give them the opportunity to explain themselves.
Considering that there are thousands of encroachers, is this feasible?
The committee has asked the Revenue Department to form two committees in Urban Bengaluru and two committees for rural parts of the city. Each taluk should also have its own committee. The objections found are to be forwarded to the divisional level committee, which will send us the information to take a final call.
What is currently on the agenda of the committee?
To simply understand the extent of encroachments on lakes and the interconnections between lakes, known as rajakaluves. We are trying to comprehend the problems by listing them out. Collection of statistics is crucial to our decision-making process and we have focused all our energy on that. Without the numbers of specific regions, they just seem like haphazard distributions.
What is the biggest accomplishment of the committee by far?
The enumeration of tanks was never done till this committee was formed. Meetings were held with all officers concerned to give us the numbers and by mid November, a report was collated. Data about lakes, ponds, the area occupied by the water bodies, and the number of encroachments by private and government bodies, has been enumerated by the Government of Karnataka for the first time. Previous media reports have leaked a few details, but this is the final document.
A final report was supposed to be submitted in January by the committee. What is the current deadline?
It will be submitted when the overall work is completed. A lot is left to be done. The deadline will be extended from time to time, according to the changing status. It requires another three to four months, roughly. No promises.
What is the extent of land encroachment done by the BDA?
The BDA has encroached 23 tanks and 3,229 sites have been illegally allotted. Around 304 sites are still vacant and will soon be allotted.
How do you propose to solve the conflict between the Revenue Department and the BDA in terms of land ownership?
The Revenue Department needs to reassign the land to the BDA. When land approval is taken, the BDA issues the permission but the land officially belongs to the Revenue Department. The process needs to refined to give the BDA full ownership of land. Also, some of the illegal land needs to be made legal on paper and wherever essential they need to be removed.
In September, CM Siddaramaiah said that special courts will be formed to address land encroachment cases. What is the current status?
This special court is for land grabbers alone, a majority of them being private bodies. An act for land grabbers was being formulated all this while. It is currently being reviewed. Once the act is implemented, the special court will be formed.
As a first step, we are going to publish the bank areas and encroachers’ names in the official gazette and the media in the next four days. We are going to issue notices to them, asking them to cite reasons for occupying the areas. We want to give them the opportunity to explain