INTERVIEW | 'Civil society has to play its role to make Bengaluru liveable': Expert on city's road ahead post floods

If allowed to continue, it will be difficult to live in this city. The government ignored climate change warnings which led to this situation, apart from poor planning and governance.

Published: 18th September 2022 06:01 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th September 2022 10:45 AM   |  A+A-

Last week’s heavy downpour handicapped the IT corridor in Bengaluru. (Photo | Vinod Kumar T | EPS)

Express News Service

BENGALURU: Retired chief secretary, popularly known as the “Demolition Man of the State”, A Ravindra told The New Sunday Express that there is indifference and lack of concern for Bengaluru among bureaucrats, politicians and citizens.

If allowed to continue, it will be difficult to live in this city. The government ignored climate change warnings which led to this situation, apart from poor planning and governance.

The civil society must now play an important role like it did in Noida to bring down the twin towers. Excerpts:

What are the reasons for flooding in Bengaluru?

There are two prime reasons: flooding, which is natural, and then there is encroachment and urbanisation. Bengaluru has experienced an expansion of many areas over the last decade and the population has increased to 1.3 million.

There is an increase in demand for land and occupational spaces. There is a construction spree which has led to encroachment of drains, wetlands and lakes.

There is also a lot of unauthorised construction in low-lying areas, not just by the rich and mighty, but even by the common people.

Who is responsible for this situation?

Everyone has to be collectively blamed. Builders like to use the maximum space without proper consideration.

Zoning regulations have to be followed to the scale, but there are large-scale violations. There are different authorities which sanction plans and supervise, but they all failed in preventing unauthorised and illegal construction leading to this situation.

Political interference is also a factor, which is encouraging such acts. It’s a nexus.

What action should be taken against officials accused of allowing encroachments on storm water drains?

This is very important. Taking action against builders and developers is easy. But it is high time action is taken against officials — those responsible for sanctioning plans to allow illegal constructions to go on without field inspection. If action is taken, things will begin to change.

Here, the civil society should put pressure on the government. While we say there is a fault with officials, there is a fault at the political level too. Politicians should exercise caution and not interfere.

A lot of officials succumb to political pressure. Politicians’ interests have crept in in education, hospitals, colleges and other buildings. It’s a tall order, but reforms are needed in leadership at the state and city-level.

You were known as the “Demolition Man”. How do you look at the present drive and what can be better?

When I was heading the team for demolition, there were orders from various sections (courts and government) to stop it. Things are different now.

The Lokayukta and High Court are also supporting it. But if this takes a political turn, then things will get worse.

The government must keep climate change and weather events in mind. A sense has to prevail that severe damage can be caused if they do not take preventive measures.

There is a need for a proper response team. The government should be accountable for works executed and the finances.

What rules/laws are required to ensure such a situation does not repeat? Bengaluru does not have a Master Plan and never had a Master Plan Scheme. Why?

There are sufficient good rules and laws, but they need to be implemented. In fact, the Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act gives enough powers to the commissioner.

There are some rigid rules, which are paving way for violations. This could be a sign that the rules need to be modified.

There is indifference and lack of concern for the city as a whole among government officials, bureaucrats and even citizens.

If you allow this to go on, then living in Bengaluru will become difficult. The BBMP and the BDA need to rethink their planning process.

There is a need to take a relook at governance and plan implementation.

What is the role of civil society and private companies who are accused of encroachment?

Civil society plays a crucial role now compared to earlier times.

Now some are working on PILs (public interest litigation).

The case of Noida’s twin towers is an example of the role of civil society. In Kochi, people ensured the demolition of towers to protect the coast and environment.

Here, too, the environment should be protected and given importance.

The government should act quickly on complaints. But it is slow which is allowing unauthorised construction to go on.

Civil society must take the lead. But many people believe that unauthorised constructions do not matter and they go on violating them.

There is a perception that Brand Bengaluru has taken a beating.

There is nothing of that sort. People are making too much of it. But if we continue this way, and don’t take measures, then the image will be hit.


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