Citizens demand consultation for BDA redevelopment, say environmental hazards ignored

Residents say they don't mind redevelopment but it must be done after public consultations and not in violation of the BDA Charter.

The recent approval for revamping seven Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) complexes into retail, multiplex, entertainment centres and offices has not been well received by citizens. Residents say there have been no public consultations and a total lack of transparency.

Sneha Nandihal, founder of I Change Indiranagar, says the Detailed Project Report (DPR) is not available in the public domain. “We filed an RTI but received a convoluted response, so we obtained it from other sources.”

Ajay Reddy, member of third block Koramangala RWA, says the biggest issue is that no public consultation has been done so far: ”We don’t mind redevelopment but it should be done only after residents living near the complex are consulted. Redevelopment has to be done as per the residents’ requirements, as it is a civic amenity site.”

Suresh Bhaskaran, a member of the HSR Layout Sector 4 Residents Welfare Association (RWA), argues against converting a civic amenity site into a commercial venture, deeming it illegal. “HSR Layout already has over a lakh commercial offices, resulting in chaotic parking situations.”

Seven BDA complex locations

  • Indiranagar
  • HSR Layout
  • Koramanagala
  • Sadashivnagar
  • Austin Town
  • RT Nagar
  • Vijayanagar 

Background

In 2018, tenders were floated for the redevelopment of the BDA complexes in HSR Layout, RT Nagar, Sadashivnagar, Indiranagar, Vijayanagar and Austin Town. In August 2018, I Change Indiranagar, a federation of RWAs in Indiranagar, HAL 2nd stage and 3rd stage, protested against the redevelopment of the Indiranagar BDA complex, raising environmental and civic concerns. The project (the earlier deadline being March 2021) was then shelved.

A BDA official says, on condition of anonymity, that in 2018 they were not given permission to start work due to “technical reasons”. In September 2023, after the state government gave the go ahead, the BDA’s market division issued work orders.

Indiranagar BDA complex
Indiranagar BDA complex. Pic courtesy: I Change Indiranagar

BDA’s justifications

The primary reason cited for the redevelopment is enhanced revenue. The estimated revenue to be earned from all seven complexes post redevelopment is nearly 40 crores. As per news reports, BDA’s current annual earnings stand at approximately 11 crores. Residents argue that redeveloping the complexes to earn a mere Rs 40 crore is not worth the environmental cost and disruption to civic infrastructure that the projects will cause.

The BDA official stresses that redevelopment is necessary because the buildings are old. “Except for the HSR Layout BDA complex, the buildings in the other complexes are deteriorating,” he says.  

When asked about the traffic chaos the redevelopment will create, he says, “We are already facing a lot of parking problems in those areas. We are thinking of building public parking areas.” He goes on to assure citizens that the complexes will be planned in such a way that it “won’t be fully commercialised.”


Read more: Indiranagar objects to BDA complex redevelopment plan


Letter of objection

Currently, there is no formal channel available to citizens for sharing their grievances and concerns around the proposed redevelopment. However, I Change Indiranagar has sent a letter with objections to the Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister & Bangalore Minister, Chief Secretary of Karnataka, Additional Chief Secretary of Karnataka, BDA Chairman, BDA Commissioner and BBMP Commissioner. 

“The BDA Commissioner’s secretary informed me that the Commissioner has taken a look at the letter,” says Sneha.

As stated in this letter, the redevelopment will be done at an approximate cost of Rs 657 crore. “We understand that the redeveloped structure would have two huge blocks/towers, housing over 6,50,000 square feet of retail and mall space and 3,50,000 square feet of commercial office space. This means a total built up area of 14.95 lakh square feet versus the current 1.34 lakh square feet — over 11 times the floor area of the current structure,” says Sneha.  

She adds that the redevelopment will worsen the already chaotic traffic mess. “The roads around the complex are narrow, residential in nature and are already packed with traffic, with very little pedestrian infrastructure. Old Madras Road and CMH Road are also choked with traffic.”

Prior environmental clearance required

There are also concerns over potential environmental hazards due to tree felling and pollution. Prior environmental clearance has not been sought for the Indiranagar Complex.

The letter of objection states: “Section 8(a) of the Schedule to the Ministry of Environment and Forests notification S.O.1553, dated 14.09.2006 (EIA Notification, 2006) provides that any construction having a built up area of over 20,000 square metre is a Category B Project and requires prior environmental clearance from the state level Environmental Impact Assessment Authority. The proposed shopping complex on the site is well over one lakh square metre and therefore requires prior environmental clearance.”

Swarna Venkatraman, Secretary RWA, Indiranagar 1st Stage, talks of a Tree Census in July 2018, organised by Vruksha Foundation, to assess the impact of the demolition of the Indiranagar BDA Complex on the green cover in the area. “The Tree Census revealed that within the BDA complex alone there are 147 trees. The perimeter of the complex, that is on the footpaths, has about 74 trees. In total, approximately 200 trees, some of them more than 50 years old, will be felled for the project,” says Swarna.

She adds that any new construction in the current complex will also have a huge environmental impact on the Kadirenpalya/Byapannahalli lakes nearby. 

The BDA official acknowledges potential environmental concerns for Indiranagar, but not the other six complexes because “they are very small compared to Indiranagar.”

Permission procedure for tree felling

Urban conservationist Vijay Nishant, founder of Project Vruksha, questions why this project, which was shelved in 2018, has now been revived. “The question is who is behind this revival? There is a limit to how much I, an activist, can fight. Due procedure for permission has to be followed if more than 50 trees are cut for a project,” he says.

He adds that it is ironic that at a time when the Bangalore Climate Action Cell — a new entity within the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) — has been set up, projects like these, which completely ignore environmental hazards, are being approved.

As per The Karnataka Preservation Of Trees Act, 1976, if more than 50 trees are to be felled for any public purpose like road widening, construction of road, canal, tanks, buildings etc., it can be done only with official permission. The permission should have been granted only after a public notice inviting objections from the people has been issued and duly considered by the Tree Officer.

BDA violations

Ashok Sarath, President Defence Colony RWA, says the project is in violation of the BDA and Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act, 1961 (KTCP Act). “The Indiranagar BDA Shopping Complex area is demarcated as “Public – Semi Public” in the RMP 2015. There cannot be any commercial development on the site and as per the BDA Act of 1976, the site can only have civic amenities or public utilities.” He also points out that there is enough commercialisation in Indiranagar already.

Put BDA complexes to better use

Indiranagar residents say if BDA is going ahead with the demolition of the existing complex, then they would like to see a tree park or an urban jungle in its place instead of a shopping mall.

Suresh alternatively proposes transforming the site into a traditional marketplace. This transformation, he argues, would serve the local community better and leave a much lower carbon footprint, as compared to constructing malls and additional commercial offices.

Also read:

Comments:

  1. Raghu says:

    Impact Assessment should be made mandatory

    Environmental, Traffic congestion, disturbances vs Benefit for nearby residential

    If this is going to cause disturbance than amenity then that project is not viable

  2. Parvathi Srirama says:

    Bangalore is spreading beyond our imagination and limits. Whatever BDA plans to develop Bangalore with infrasture should be for next 50 years. Any developmental work must be by reputed private companies like L&T etc., under consultation with public intervention only. BDA complexes should not be leased out to any private agencies as these complexes are public property under GOK for development and maintenance.

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