BENGALURU: Rashomon Effect, a term that means an issue that has contradictory interpretations by different people, can be applied to what is happening with Sarjapur’s Sompura lake. This latest entrant in Bengaluru's lake encroachment issues is seeing a difference in opinion due to the existence of a mud path, which was earlier being used by residents of Sompura village, and has now become more important than the 32-35 acre lake itself. The lake is now a dry, barren, muddy dump with garbage, debris, depressions and a few moss-filled pockets of water. The periphery is marked by an old fence, within which lies the 30-40 feet mud pathway.
Can't oppose villagers' wishes
Joy VR, secretary of Sarjapur Resident Welfare Association, says, “The mud path was narrow and has always been there. Sompura villagers appealed for it to be widened to provide better access for vehicles, shepherds and farmlands. The Yamare Panchayat agreed, and the widening of the path was done last month.”“Some other apartment dwellers opposed the road, citing the lake's buffer zone order by National Green Tribunal. However, since it is a rural area, it's hard to oppose the villagers' wishes and we don't want to go against them,” Joy says.
'Outcast' residents oppose path widening
One of the other apartment dwellers he is referring to, on condition of anonymity, says, "Last December, an apartment construction began. To provide access for home buyers, the builder cut across the lake bed and widened the mud road in February. Earlier, it was a very narrow path, sufficing for villagers to walk over.”
“Once the road was widened, construction trucks started to flow in every day to the apartment. We noticed that all the vegetation and shrubs around the bund were removed,” the person says, adding that they submitted a written complaint to the Panchayat, who denied any encroachment.
This difference in opinion among residents led to a few members being removed from the RWA. They claimed that other residents asked them to keep mum about the lake road, failing which, they would get beaten and threatened - although by whom is not clear.
Road being built for apartment, say villagers
A complaint letter submitted by a few residents to the Panchayat development officer reads,” ‘Sompura Lake: Encroachment of the buffer zone of the lake by a builder. This is a clear violation of the High Court order issued as NK Patil and NGT ruling.”Member of the panchayat, Nagaraj, tells City Express,” There was no connectivity to Sompura village until now, leaving for the mud path. We want to expand it for the locals, and not for any specific apartment.”
However, he also adds, "We are planning a walkway on the lake bed with benches so people can enjoy the lake. ` 4 lakh that was sanctioned by the panchayat was used for path expansion, and `10 lakh will be released for further development." When asked about buffer zone violations, Nagaraj admits that the path is within 30 metres of the lake. “Beyond the fence, the land belongs to a private developer, who did not allow the Panchayat to create a path. We had to make do with government land available. It is not illegal,” he justifies.
A villager says, “We have been told that a road is coming up for the new apartment. We villagers did not ask for a road, the narrow path was enough for us. Already, apartment sewage from surrounding areas has made the lake stink. Around 4-5 years ago, it was brimming with water and many birds would come to quench their thirst.” Another villager Sampangi who was the former chairman of the Yamare Panchayat, says, "The village was not born today. It has been around forever, and the small mud path has also always been there. If the road is coming up now all of a sudden, it is for the apartment alone."
RWA says the mud path is being widened on demand from villagers.
Residents who were removed from the RWA for protesting against the path widening, say the mud path is being made into an access way for an upcoming apartment.
Panchayat says they are building a walking/jogging path so people can 'enjoy' the lake.
Villagers say they did not ask for a road and it is for the apartment.
Pathway flouts NGT rules
As per NGT order dated 2016, buffer zone and green belt of 75 meters must be maintained in case of lakes, 50 for primary, 35 for secondary and 25 metres for tertiary rajkuleves (stormwater drains).
Irrespective of the development, the pathway is on the lake bed, within the perimeter.