BENGALURU: Your gated community atop a ‘private hill’ deserves its own exclusive clubhouse, proclaims a big builder. Elsewhere, a private trust destroys a verdant hill to build a massive concrete structure for a temple.
How these hills in Bengaluru became ‘private’ is a story whose details are now unfolding.
Virgin hills in Hanumagiri, Vasantpura hills and Ideal Township, once public property, have made way for private real estate projects and the city is fast losing its precious green cover.
About 40 hills still remain, but are being slowly destroyed to make way for apartment complexes, shrines, and schools and colleges. These constructions spell doom for green spaces in the midst of cramped residential areas.
Between 2005 and 2008, the government auctioned off lands coming under the green belt — where no buildings are allowed — ostensibly to contain encroachments. Thanks to a policy then formulated, park zones, hills, open spaces and gomal (grazing) lands are now in private hands.
During 2005-08, 669.27 acres of government land, recovered from encroachers, including hills and green zones, was auctioned for `588 crore, way below the market rate. Ironically, most purchasers were either land grabbers or encroachers.
How did they pull it off? That remains a mystery. But fortunately, all auctions were stopped after that, says an environmentalist.
Many hills then grabbed were sold at astronomical profits to realtors and builders, and the gold rush brought many from across India to the city.
Gated complexes and such other structures have come up on hills in the last six to eight years.
Beautiful hillocks that served as prime watershed areas have vanished in Rajarajeshwari Nagar, Padmanabha Nagar, Hosakerehalli, Nagarabhavi and Kanakapura Road.
Although the government has taken some action against lake encroachments, the hills remain in private hands.
In fact, in official parlance, hills are considered common property resources (CPR), but in Bengaluru, they no longer remain ‘common’.
The land lobby has no qualms about razing hills. They even obfuscate survey numbers, environmentalists allege.
Urban planning is such that hills, necessary for water flow, have not been taken into account. Environmentalist A N Yellappa Reddy regrets that local communities are hardly aware of the serious consequences of degradation of hilly contours. “The hills mitigate disease, dust and pollution, and hold water,” he says.
Geologist G S Seetaram, who has conducted studies on watershed channels, explains, “Hills are a natural habitat for herbs, grasses and bushes. No amount of artificial terraced gardening will bring back natural biodiversity.”
One look at the city’s toposheet reveals how many hills have been swallowed in the name of development, Seetaram says. “In the event of heavy rains or extreme heat, man-made calamities may occur as it did in Vasantpura,” he says.
Construction on hills had resulted in the death of some people residing there. Micro-fractures in rocks, created by blasting, results in landslides, he adds.