Citizens plan mega-protest to oppose Bellandur mega-SEZ

Fed up with the inaction of the government on the mega-project coming up on the banks of Bellandur lake, citizens decide to gather in protest.

The residents of Bellandur, Koramangala and HSR Layout in Bengaluru, who have been fighting over the months to get the government to stop the mega project coming up on the wetland lying between Agara and Bellandur lakes, finally are resorting to a massive protest, to make their voices heard louder. The protest will be held on Sunday, March 23, 2014, at 10.30 am.

The project is said to be violating the conditions set by the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board, namely not altering the sloping pattern, not encroaching the drains etc. Despite this, the project developers Mantri Techzone Pvt Ltd are continuing the construction work.

There have been hearings conducted by Upa Lokayukta, Justice Subhash Adi, where the worries of the residents were discussed, however there has not been any action on ground, to address the real issues by any department.

The Upa Lokayukta in the last hearing in February, had objected to the usage of state machinery to provide land for this project, which has partial SEZ and most of it being residential and commercial. In this meeting, the Commissioner of Industries, Maheshwara Rao had also clarified that the project was given a go-ahead in 2001, but there has been no extension sought for the permission.

There is also a Public Interest Litigation running in the High Court of Karnataka, filed by Namma Bengaluru Foundation and many resident welfare associations. The project has caused worry among people of Bellandur, HSR Layout and Koramangala for various reasons.

Huge requirement of water

The documents submitted for approval from BWSSB showed a built up area of 17,404 sqmt, while the actual built up area is 13,47,094 sqmt. The projected water requirement while obtaining environmental clearance was around 135 million litres per month. Without having any exact idea of how much water will be required, the BWSSB has given the NOC for the project. And the project claims to use only BWSSB as the source of water for the entire project.

But the BWSSB’s January 2013 data showed that 122 million litres of water was supplied to 1730 connections in Agaram ward that month. Koramangala ward, which is largely residential, got only 197 ML for its nearly 5900 connections in January. There is no adequate supply in most areas, and residents heavily rely on tanker water. Come summer, the water woes peak here.

Dangerous for drains and lake?

The IISc study on Bellandur wetlands showed the adverse effect of the project on the lake and the surrounding environment. The residents fear that the project would cause the destruction of Bangalore’s largest lake, Bellandur. The project claims to use water from seven STPs. However, this will result in diminished inflow to the lake, which will cause the lake to dry up, and the water table in the area to go down.

The drain that passes to Bellandur lake from HSR layout has been heavily encroached by the excavated earth piled up by the side of Mantri constructions spot. An engineer in a nearby plot who doesn’t want to be named says that last year his project site was submerged in floods and backwater from the drain. This is an indication of the extent to which various projects on the banks of the Raja Kaluve might have affected it, of which the Mantri project is also a major one.

Traffic to multiply on sarjapur Road

Another problem that looms large is the massive traffic that will come along with the project. Interestingly, a Metro line has been planned on Sarjapur Road in phase-3 of Metro. However, that doesn’t allay the fears of roadblocks that would be caused by the massive residential and commercial project, because the project aims at bringing in 21000 extra cars per hour at peak time, as projected in their own documents. The residents fear that Koramangala would reduce to a dust bowl.

Too many violations

The residents feel the project has displayed scant respect for laws, by violating the zoning regulations and presenting untruth to get specific clearances, including those from BWSSB, Bescom and Fire Department.

Due permissions have been obtained by the residents for the protest. They have decided to demand the cancellation of KIADB permissions given to the project, and the withdrawal of BWSSB no-objection certificates. It remains to be seen whether this will make any impact on ground.

Citizen Matters has been covering the story from the beginning. To read the stories related to this issue, click here.

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