Editor’s choice 2022: Stories about Bengaluru we hope you didn’t miss

Ejipura EWS Quarters series, why Rainbow Drive floods, an explainer on ward committees, and citizens building a duct-culvert, are our top stories.

It was a year of in-depth articles that not only informed readers with detailed reportage and explainers, but also offered solutions to issues of concern to citizens. For example the Bengaluru floods of 2022, arguably one of the worst the city has experienced. While a series of articles explained the various causes of the floods, there were also articles that sought to explore solutions.

Based on reader’s concerns, Citizen Matters also conducted an event, ‘Flood-proofing homes and neighbourhoods’, a first-of-its-kind citizen clinic format. In this format, a panel of experts offered insights on how homes and neighbourhoods can be protected against future incidents of flooding.

Articles by our reporters and citizen journalists ranged from topics like the constant construction work in Outer Ring Road to the status of Below Poverty Line (BPL) ration card holders in the city. Our articles sought to capture issues and concerns affecting every strata of society.

It was a difficult task to select four stories that were the most impactful. However, mentioned below are the stories that we believed were the most compelling for their in-depth reportage, insights, and call to action.

Ejipura EWS Quarters series

While mainstream media covered case by case incidents of the Ejipura EWS (Economically Weaker Sections) Quarters issue, Citizen Matters delved deep into the timeline and current status of the 2013 evictees of Ejipura slum.

In a detailed three part series, Navya PK extensively covered the Ejipura EWS Quarters saga. The first part, ‘Ejipura EWS Quarters series: Two decades on, still waiting for a home’, traced the timeline of the Ejipura EWS, from the 1990s till 2022.

Ejipura slum was the original site where BBMP had built EWS quarters with 1,512 families being allotted these quarters. But the quarters started collapsing, within a couple of years, due to poor quality of construction. BBMP then built tin sheds for the families as alternate accommodation. However, most of the original allottees left the site, renting out their sheds to other poor families– these tenants (over 5,000 people) were, however, evicted in January 2013 from Ejipura slum, apparently to rebuild the quarters for the original EWS allottees. However, a decade after the eviction, it was found that no quarters in Ejipura have been built so far.

In the second part, ‘Nine years after Ejipura slum demolition, evictees struggle for shelter, basic facilities’, was an in-depth coverage of the current condition of the 2013 evictees. The residents who had taken the tin sheds on rent were promised alternate accommodation in Sulikunte, along Sarjapura Road.

But the construction of the Sulikunte quarters was completed only in 2017. Around 350 evicted families, who are now living there, face a number of challenges, including shortage of water, power, and street lights.

As for the rest of the evictees, around 350 families continue to live in the low-income neighbourhoods around Koramangala, about 300 families have left for their home towns while apparently the remaining 500-odd families have been untraceable, according to Venkatraman Iyer of the NGO Swabhimaan Trust, which has supported the Ejipura evictees.

Read more: Ejipura to Agara, who gets land, who doesn’t

In 2014, the High Court directed the government to allot the evictees flats in Sulikunte, and to set up schools, hospitals, and increase frequency of buses from the village. But as per our last reports, none of this has happened.

The third part, ‘Homeless a decade: BBMP’s messy rehabilitation process leaves Ejipura slum evictees in limbo’, looked at why the allotment of quarters in Sulikunte is still not completed. In 2014, the court permitted BBMP to evict all 1,101 families from Ejipura. BBMP did not challenge this number in court. Even though the BBMP knew that over 1000 families would have to be rehabilitated, the Slum Development Board (KSDB) built only 900 flats at Sulikunte.

And the new year offers little help of a better life for these people.

Rainbow Drive — layout or lake?

2022 was a year of reckoning for Bengaluru when it came to the floods in the city due to unusually heavy rainfall in a short span of time. Poor urban planning and reckless concretisation led to large swathes in the city being flooded in September.

Among the many articles on flooding, the article, ‘Rainbow Drive — layout or lake? The man-made tragedy of Bengaluru’s flood-prone neighbourhoods’, by Meera K and Vaidya R, stood out. It explored why Rainbow Drive, an upmarket residential complex, is so vulnerable to flooding. One of the main reasons being the “development” of the 35 acres-layout on land that was once paddy fields. That Rainbow Drive was so severely affected by floods is ironical as it is a pioneer in rain water harvesting and waste water treatment, besides being water sustainable.

A group of people wading through knee deep water inside Rainbow Drive layout
Rainbow Drive layout flooded, Aug 2022. Pic: KP Singh

It is located in a valley area, connecting the lakes of Halanayakanahalli and Junnasandra downstream to Saul Kere. The kaluve carrying the overflow from Junnasandra ends at Rainbow Drive. In addition, the level of the Sarjapur Main Road has increased by over three feet, KP Singh said in the article, while the layout is at the original valley level, which means the water reaching the Rainbow Drive exit gate is not flowing fast enough towards Saul Kere, and the Sarjapur Road stormwater drain is currently not wide enough to carry the rainwater accumulating at the RBD gate.

Read more: Rainbow Drive — layout or lake? The man-made tragedy of Bengaluru’s flood-prone neighbourhoods

Water expert S Vishwanath weighed in on the matter, saying that the original lake system was designed with kodi kaluves, or waste weir overflow channels, to handle overflow from those lakes to Saul Kere, from which in turn water overflowed to the Bellandur-Varthur waste weir channel. Unfortunately the kodi kaluves have been ignored. Also, these lakes are now completely surrounded by ‘bunds’, which prevent water flow, causing water logging.

Apart from highlighting the causes for flooding, the article also outlined solutions. For example, as KP Singh said, the authorities can open the Halanayakanahalli lake sluice gates whenever necessary, and BBMP should take up construction of stormwater drains along Junnasandra Road as well as the western boundary of Rainbow Drive to take the water to the culvert. The Halanayakanahalli lake’s overflow from the east side of Rainbow Drive too should have a proper channel towards the culvert. And desilting of the Junnasandra and Halanayakanahalli lakes in the summer should be done.

Ward committee meetings

Bengaluru is among the few Indian cities that has effective Ward Committees. This was made possible by the ‘BBMP Act 2020’, which replaced the earlier Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act and provides for setting up of ward committees. Therefore the explainer, ‘No one can deny your right to attend your ward committee meeting’, by Srinivas Alavilli, on what ward committees are and what is the process of attending ward committee meetings is essential reading for Bengalureans, as it involves participatory governance.

Local democracy

Citizen journalist Arvind Keerthi wrote about how Brookefields Layout Residents (BLR) Association, a federation of apartment associations, crowdfunded to create their very own “well-engineered, citizen-funded duct-culvert!”

The BLR Association collects voluntary funds from residents and undertakes public works. BLR’s achievements are establishing sidewalks, lighting up dim streets, transplanting trees to widen roads, planting new trees, installing openable covers to enable regular drain-cleaning, fixing underground water leaks, filling potholes, and more. This article is a testament to the transformation that citizens can bring about if they are determined to be changemakers.

Citizen Matters has always been committed to informing and empowering citizens to make their cities sustainable, liveable, and equitable. As we usher in 2023, we do so with a promise that we will continue to publish many more such meaningful and impactful stories.

Happy New Year!

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