Saturday, May 17, 2008

Broken processes, blocked pipes - Citizen Matters, Bangalore: 14 May 2008

Citizen Matters, Bangalore: Broken processes, blocked pipes - 14 May 2008: "Warning to Developers: The land owners /developers are hereby warned not to form unauthorised layouts in the Bangalore Metropolitan Area and cheat the public. Formation of unauthorised layouts without approval by BDA will attract penalty as well as imprisonment on conviction under the KTCP Act 1961. Further, BDA is constrained to acquire the lands where such unauthorised layouts are formed.'

(This is a warning displayed on the Bangalore Development Authority website.)

Despite such notices, despite demolition drives, despite education levels of consumers, unauthorised layouts are passe in Bangalore. Layouts that spin money out of the oldest dream of owning a house, they've complicated and burdened the development puzzle that is Bruhath Bengaluru today. These layouts further twist questions of if water, when water and why no water in areas south-east of the city.

Areas like Sarjapur road and Haralur road have recently come into the BBMP's jurisdiction. Amenity providing agencies including the BBMP, are yet to survey the ground and report on the existence of layouts, apartment complexes and sites that are due for regularisation under the Sakrama legislation, in these areas. They then plan to formulate policies on these properties. Planning for provision of basic facilities like water can come only after this.

According to a highly placed official at the BBMP who asked not to be named, "The BBMP has issued oral instructions to staff in the Bommanahalli zone to check if there are more legal or illegal constructions in the Sarjapur road, Haralur road belt." Before making provisions for amenities, "We have to check this legality aspect. How many of these layouts were sanctioned by the CMC? How many were not? The roads are built, the buildings have come up, but only now has the BBMP taken over."

The source explains that "Even if the layouts are found to be built within legal sanctions, the residents have to pay betterment charges again to the new regulatory authority - the BBMP." He clarifies that this does not assure them of facilities. Betterment charges apart, the BBMP is yet to frame a policy regarding these new areas where so many high rise buildings already exist, he says.

BDA notification and illegal layouts

Though the BDA's revised Master Plan 2015 "envisages a compact, balanced and equitable, urban growth for the city", ground reality seems far different. To allow "... such growth, the Master plan 2015 uses the regulatory mechanism by land use zoning and land use map for development regulation, management and enforcement." Which means that certain areas are marked out for certain purposes only.

Statutory mechanisms are in place to allow the BDA to take over land for its development projects like layouts, parks, shopping complexes, etc. The BDA is authorised to ‘notify' the original owners of a piece of land through the official gazette, that it wishes to acquire the land for development purposes. After a short period provided to raise objections, the BDA deposits a certain amount in the name of the owner and proceeds with development works or at least plans for it. In the meantime, the original owner, aware or unaware of the ‘notification', sells the land to a third party, who buys it for his own use. The third or fourth or fifth party in possession of the land is usually the one who is bestowed with the label ‘illegal occupant'.

Multiple sanctioning authorities and development chaos

The existence of the erstwhile City Municipal Corporations (CMCs) and TMC (Town Municipal Corporation) facilitated the irregular, unmapped development in many areas in Bangalore. Working on shoestring budgets compared to the then Bangalore City Corporation, the CMCs collected property taxes but shrugged off development works like drainage facilities, roads, water and other basic amenities. Plans approved by the CMC were not those that were executed.

Also, a CMC approved plan could only include a ground-plus-three construction. Violations aplenty were discovered or acknowledged before the Sakrama legislation.

In fact, the Sakrama legislation opened up a Pandora's Box of illegal land use. It acknowledged unauthorised layouts in a big way, even if that was the unintended purpose of the legislation. The questions that then raised their heads have had their own effects on the water access patterns in newly acknowledged BBMP areas. (snip)"

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