Friday, November 28, 2008

Squads to check water theft-Bangalore-Cities-The Times of India

Squads to check water theft-Bangalore-Cities-The Times of India
Cracking down on those who tamper with water meters, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) has booked two builders for
filing false affidavits while applying for water and sewerage connections.

"The owners of a commercial complex on Bannerghatta Road have cheated us of Rs 6 crore. We will recover the dues from them,'' BWSSB minister Katta Subramanya Naidu told reporters here on Thursday.

He said the duo had declared the area of their building as 40,000 sqft, as against 1.4 lakh sqft, and underpaid the BWSSB at the time of getting connections. "To avoid such cheating and arrest further leakage, the BWSSB will set up a multiple vigilance team to inspect hotels and big buildings, among others,'' Naidu said.

The government will constitute squads to detect cheating by big builders while getting drinking water and sewerage connections. One is already in place.

The BWSSB estimates that it can mobilize Rs 100 crore by plugging pilferage, besides revenue gained by regularizing over 85,000 illegal tap connections.

Naidu also warned mineral water companies of action if they are found guilty of supplying contaminated water.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Spot the lake here if you can...

Spot the lake here if you can...
BANGALORE: For families staying near the Arekere lake in Hulimavu, clean water is a rare, precious commodity. Here groups of 10 to 12 families share water from one well each. While seepage from the highly-polluted Arekere lake has caused water in the wells to be polluted, residents are left with no other option but to use it. Raw sewage and effluents from the nearby garment factory make their way into Arekere lake, which is almost completely covered with water hyacinth, an indication of reduced oxygen content due to pollution.

“Well water is unfit for consumption. We use it only for ablution, washing clothes and dishes. In the common borewell, water comes only once a week. Otherwise, we rely on private tankers for water supply,” says Amjad, a resident in the area. However, private water supply is not affordable to many families here.

“Even borewell water is not clean. There is high incidence of fever, allergy and respiratory problems among people. But it has become so routine that no one complains anymore,” says another resident Mohan Gupta. The stench from the lake is unbearable during rains and mosquitoes which breed in the open drains and the lake also contribute to diseases.

The case is not unique to Arekere lake.

People residing near many lakes in the city, such as Singasandra, Chikkabegur and Bellandur lakes, face similar problems and the poor people are the worst-affected. Advocate S Vasudev, counsel for the PIL demanding potable water supply in areas surrounding Bellandur lake, says, “Builders of new apartments pay crores of rupees for unrestricted water supply while local residents are deprived.” When contacted, Public Relations Officer of BWSSB A N Prahlada Rao said, “Until two to three years back, water was provided to apartments that paid nearly Rs 80 lakh for laying of water connection pipelines.

But due to supply constraints, new apartments would not have the option. Water supply problems are higher in areas that are newly added to the BBMP. Borewells are being dug in these areas from the last three to four months. By 2012, 500 MLD of Cauvery water will be available, which can solve water shortage problems.” However, in reply to a PIL filed by Bellandur gram panchayat, the High Court had in 1999 ordered immediate measures to supply potable water to residents in Bellandur, clean all lakes in the city and to channelise sewage to the treatment plants. Following the authorities’ lack of compliance to the HC directives, another petition on contempt of court was filed. It is still pending before the Lok Adalat.

The sewage treatment plants (STPs) around Bellandur now have a capacity of 248 MLD, which is insufficient to handle sewage from the area. “The BWSSB has spent nearly Rs 185 lakh to divert sewage to the treatment plant, without much respite.

While sewage is accumulating in the lake, it’s impossible to clean it,” says C S Vedant, Chief Executive Officer, Lake Development Authority (LDA).

Pollution in lakes also assume larger dimensions, threatening livelihoods. “The vegetation in areas surrounding Bellandur lake were damaged due to pollution. The vegetables taste different and are no longer accepted in the market. Agricultural activities have come to a standstill and farmers are suffering silently,” says Advocate Vasudev. The fishing community is also affected as the fish have died in many lakes.

Another problem plaguing residents is flooding during rains. The leakage of a drain connecting to Arekere lake has led to lake water flowing out into the residential areas. “We had complained about the issue many times and efforts were made to stop the leak. But as water flows in great force, temporary measures do not work,” says a resident in the area. Now many houses here are surrounded by water during all seasons.

Lack of proper drainage system worsens the situation.

LDA officials flatly blame encroachments for outflow from lakes. “People encroach outflow channels, making them narrow.

During rains, water gushes out causing flooding. BDA and BBMP should take initiative to demolish illegal structures,” says Vedant. He cites interlinking of lakes as a key cause for pollution. “In Bangalore, all lakes are interlinked, due to which pollutants from one lake will be carried to another during rains. There is lack of funds from the state government and it takes nearly five years after a proposal is submitted for any project to take off,” he adds.

Ever since LDA’s constitution in 2002, three lakes - Vengaiahnakere, Nagavarakere and Jaraganahallikere - were rejuvenated.

Whether masterplans are chalked out or not, the lives of many still hang in the balance.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Drinking water project in the pipeline

Drinking water project in the pipeline
To meet the increasing demand for drinking water in the city, a new project to pump additional 500 mld (million litres per day) water from TK Halli is proposed and the work on this project is expected to begin by December first week, announced Minister for IT, BT, Excise and BWSSB, Katta Subramanya Naidu.

Participating at the publicofficials' interaction programme in the Hebbal constituency on Saturday he said: "Bangalore is being supplied with about 870 mld water everyday as against the demand of 1,270 mld.

There is a shortage of 400 mld." Water scarcity, battered roads, overflowing drainage, garbage menace and several other civic issues were discussed at the public-officials' interaction programme (Janaspandana) organised at RT Nagar.

Katta Subramanya Naidu and officials from all the government departments participated and responded to public grievances on the occasion.

He promised the residents of R T Nagar, Hebbal and nearby areas that the civic amenities will be improved at the earliest.“Addressing water problems at this moment is difficult because of the shortage of water supply as against the demand. But we will provide alternate sources of water and drill across the city,” the Minister said. He also directed all the officials present to address the other issues of the public immediately.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Meters for all illegal water connections in Bangalore

Mangalorean.Com- Serving Mangaloreans Around The World!
Karnataka Government is proposing to install meters to all unauthorised water connections in slums and other localities in Bangalore City to regulate unaccounted supply of water.

Minister for BWSSB, Excise and Information Technology Biotechnology Katta Subramanya Naidu told journalists on Thursday that the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) has submitted a proposal to the government on installing meters to illegal connections.

BWSSB was constituted under the Act of legislature by a notification in 1964 for the supply of safe piped water for residents of the city and safe disposal of wastewater.

There are 85,000 unauthorised water connections in the city, particularly in slums. The urban poor have been drawing water supplied by the BWSSB through unauthorised connections, he said.

Asked when the meters would be installed, Mr. Naidu said a final decision would be taken after a meeting with Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa in a few days.

The BWSSB was planning to install meters at a free of cost. Unauthorised connections in slums and leaking pipes caused loss of revenue to the BWSSB. Out of 850 million litres of water a day supplied to the City, only 450 MLD had been accounted for billing, he said.

He said BWSSB has set up a Revenue Enforcement Cell under the direction supervision of the chairman of BWSSB to probe unauthorised connections that are causing huge losses to the board and to initiate legal action against the offenders.

The Cell would unearth illegal water connections in the city and help enhancing the revenue for BWSSB. The Board was expected to generate Rs. 100 crore more in this year, he said.

The cell inspected a building complex in Bhannerghatta Road on November 18 and unearthed a case of illegal connection that has been utilizing and water and sanitary facilities without paying charges to the Board, he said.

The ITC Knowledge Park building, which housed at No. 4/1 of Bhennerghatta Road in the city has four blocks. It had obtained water and sanitation facilities to its 'A' and 'B' blocs officially 2004, but 18964 sq.mts of the building was left out from the charges. The builders have extended these facilities to 'C' and 'D' blocks of 1,80,391 sq.mts without getting official permission and without paying the pro-rata fees. he cell has disconnected the illegal connection and has ordered the builders of Rs. 5.98 crore along with the fine, Mr. Naidu said.

He said the BWSSB Act, 1964 will be amended to make it more relevant to the city's needs. Changes will be made in the act to enable officials to impose penalty on people receiving water from illegal connections and prosecute them.

Water reforms on the anvil-Bangalore-Cities-The Times of India

Water reforms on the anvil-Bangalore-Cities-The Times of India
 The water supply scenario in the state might undergo some welcome reforms as minister for urban development S Suresh Kumar has reviewed the work of Karnataka Urban Water Supply and Drainage Board (KUWSB) and identified some solutions.

Suresh Kumar discussed the problems faced by KUWSB and presented a review of their work to the press on Thursday. One of the major issues identified was the payment of Rs 114 crore, pending from local bodies across the state. The minister decided that the interest amount of Rs 75 crore will be waived and local bodies urged to pay the rest in two or three instalments.

Delay in land acquisition is becoming a hurdle in solving water woes in many parts of the state, according to KUWSB. Around 40 works, including some cases in Gadag, Turuvekere, Magadi, Manavi and Gangavati are pending, because of the lengthy process of acquiring small patches of land for the work. The minister suggested that if there is no other way, they have to purchase the land. Delay in getting permission from various organizations like railways, forest department, PWD, KPTC etc is adding to the issue. There is a shortage of around 90 assistant engineers. The minister suggested that the recruitment process be outsourced to a private body, and the posts be filled in three months.

According to KUSWB officials, there are very few agencies specialized in the water supply and sanitation sector, contributing to the delay. Though the government is floating tenders, there are almost no takers. The Karnataka Transparency Act doesn't allow them to do the work on their own. Non-availability of sufficient materials, like RCC pipes, stoneware pipes and DI pipes, are other issues. The board is constructing a theme park on `Water and waste water learning centre' at Yelahanka, which will have a training centre for board employees, local bodies and the public, including people from specialized fields like plumbers and sanitary workers.

Ground water

The ground water table is decreasing rapidly, resulting in drying of borewells, according to an assessment made by the Board -- 20 years ago, water was used from a water table of 80-150 feet; today, it is as low as 800 feet. Most rural districts are dependent on borewell water. The minister suggested there is an urgent need to cut down this dependence gradually. Borewell water has been found to contain high levels of fluoride and nitrates, that are hazardous to health. The Board is working on new ways to supply all areas with surface water.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Crackdown on illegal water, power users

Crackdown on illegal water, power users
The recently-constituted Revenue Enforcement Cell of BWSSB on Tuesday cracked down on a building on Bannerghatta Road for availing water and sanitation connections without the requisite authorisation.

The builders have been ordered to pay a pro-rota fee of Rs 5.98 crore along with a fine. The building in question is the ITC Knowledge Park.

Water supply and sanitation lines have been disconnected temporarily. The REC was set up by the BWSSB to probe into unauthorised connections that are causing huge losses to the Board and to initiate legal action against the offenders, A BWSSB press release said that Chairman P B Ramamurthy has directed the chief administrative officer cum secretary of the Board to conduct a detailed enquiry into the case unearthed on Tuesday and submit the report within seven days.

Disciplinary action will be initiated thereafter, it said.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Safety becomes a casualty for manhole workers

Safety becomes a casualty for manhole workers
We hold our breath, close our eyes and move on with the job to dislodge the block. It is not easy to enter the dark drain and we are trapped inside for hours at times." This is just one harrowing tale of Kariya, a sanitary worker with the Bangalore Water Supply and Drainage Board (BWSSB). There are many more awaiting to be told and heard.

The manholes, which these workers deal upon, are poisonous gas chambers and as if working under such inhumane conditions is not enough, there are serious safety issues cropping up. Officials claim that the workers do not use the safety equipment provided. Defending their decision a sanitary worker in Malleswaram said that working with a mask and gloves is a hindrance in their work.

Stating that the two workers who died at Yelahanka on Friday were hired on a contract basis, the BWSSB authorities however emphasised that all their staff were trained.

"The methane that is present in the manhole is explosive and our workers are trained to check the concentration before entering the manhole. After opening the lid of a manhole, it should be kept open for at least 30 minutes and then throw a lighted match inside. If there is methane, it burns out and then the sanitary workers can enter the manhole. This is one of the methods followed in the absence of gas detecting devices," explained the officials.

"We have experienced sanitary workers but the incident that happened yesterday was an accident. In other countries, the workers who carry out a similar job have advanced protective technology and in our country we are yet to move beyond basic equipment like gloves, masks and boots," the officials said. It is, however, to be noted that the BWSSB is equipped with 45 jetting machines. And these machines are mostly in use to perform most of the minor works.

The workers descend into the manhole only on the non-availability of the machine or if its a major work.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Water water - Economy and Politics -

Water water - Economy and Politics -
Bangalore receives up to 810 million litres a day from the Cauvery river through pipelines that travel 100km to the city. Earlier this week, news of the possible shutdown of Cauvery water supply due to maintenance work, caused residents to fill their tanks/buckets a day in advance.

The Karnataka Power Transmission Corp. Ltd averted the crisis (a large swathe of the city was expected to be without water for 48 hours) by shifting the load to another power generation unit.
No doubt the shutdown would have been chaotic, but there are residents and organizations that can hold out even if the Bangalore Water and Sewerage Supply Board (BWSSB) fails to deliver.
Vishwanath S. who runs the Rainwater Club ( points out that if Bangalore collected just 30% of its rainfall, it would equal the quantity of water that it sources from the Cauvery.
He says parts of the city are on the road to becoming self-reliant, but there’s still a long way to go. “Right now most of Bangalore does fairly well with the Cauvery water supply, but there are several areas on the peripheries that don’t have access to these lines. These localities depend on ground water and are therefore becoming more aware about the need to recharge the water in the ground.”
One such place is Rainbow Drive, a gated community on Bangalore’s Sarjapura road. Rainbow Drive does not have an external water supply to speak of and so its residents dug seven bore wells to maintain water supply to the 200 houses in the colony. Over time, five of the wells dried up. The residents then got in touch with the Rainwater Club and dug around 10 recharge wells in the area to keep their bore wells alive; they plan to dig at least 15 more. In addition, 25 residents have dug similar recharge wells on their plots.
Vishwanath who lives in Vidayranyapura, a locality that gets a healthy supply of water from the BWSSB, does not depend on the external water source. He collects close to 10,000 litres by way of rainwater harvesting, and this lasts the family of three close to 300 days. “We manage because we are very thrifty in our water use and even use eco sand toilets that don’t require water. We also treat our waste water from the washing machine and use it to water the plants”.
But fast-drying bore wells are the lifelines of areas such as Amruthahalli, on the road to Bengaluru International Airport, that do not have access to municipal water. While a few apartments in the area practice rainwater harvesting because of a new law that makes rainwater harvesting mandatory in new buildings, the independent houses depend on local bore wells. “We collect water from the bore well every morning and that has kept us going so far,” says Chandru, a local bakery owner in Amruthahalli.
And self-sustenance works with larger organizations as well. Infosys Technologies Ltd does depend on the BWSSB for fresh potable water, but a percentage of their requirement comes from tube wells on their campus. Also, the campus sources water for landscape maintenance from its sewage treatment facility. No waste water is discharged outside the campus.
Even Bangalore’s biggest green lung, the Lalbagh Botanical Garden, stands independent. The garden has a small lake and water from here is treated in a sewage treatment plant and used for gardening. Likewise for the garden space around the beautiful Sankey tank, a man-made lake in Malleshwaram.
Just one (the Tippagondnahalli lake on the outskirts of the city) of the 81 existing lakes in Bangalore is still known to be a source of water. The rest, at best, can be used for irrigation purposes or to recharge the ground water in the areas that they lie in.

Three perish in City manhole - Deccan Herald

Deccan Herald - Three perish in City manhole
Pathetic worker safety standards came to the fore yet again, as two labourers and a good samaritan autorickshaw driver breathed their last struggling for air inside a 30-feet manhole at Yelahanka New Town here on Friday.

The workers were on an underground drain cleanup job on a Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) contract, while the driver had tried to rescue them.

Standard safety procedures were apparently not strictly followed, before the labourers went down.

Narasimhamurthy (30), a resident of Laggere, and Amaresh were the labourers and Srinivas (26), a resident of Cauvery street, Attur Layout was the unfortunate driver.

BWSSB had engaged the services of contractor, Gangadhar to clean all the drains in Yelahanka New Town.

Gangadhar had employed several labourers for the purpose. The cleaning work at the accident site on 4th Phase Road began on Friday morning.

Narasimhamurthy, Amaresh and a few other workers got busy. But when the others broke for lunch and departed, the duo chose to stay back. This proved costly.

The duo got into the 30-ft drain through the manhole using a ladder. But once inside, they started screaming for help, apparently due to suffocation and foul smell. The oxygen content in the air below was very low, and poisonous gases were apparently still potent inside.

Autorickshaw driver Srinivas, who was passing by the road, heard the screams and immediately went down the manhole.

The duo were struggling for breath by the time Srinivas reached them. Soon, the breathlessness caught him too and he failed in his efforts to lift the duo. Within the next few minutes, all the three collapsed and died, said the police.

A few onlookers who had noticed Srinivas entering the manhole, grew suspicious after he failed to return. They alerted the police, who rushed to the spot informing Karnataka State Fire and Emergency officials. The bodies were later lifted and shifted to the Dr BR Ambedkar Medical Hospital.

Srinivas, who died while attempting to rescue the two labourers, was the eldest son in a large family. A native of Kolar, he had the added responsibility of looking after his 10 younger brothers. Narasimhamurthy left behind his wife and son.

IT-BT Minister, Katta Subramanya Naidu visited the spot and announced a compensation of Rs 1 lakh each to the kin and kith of the deceased. The Yelahanka New Town police booked a case of negligence against two BWSSB engineers, Somashekhar and Nagendra and contractor Gangadhar.

Cloud over safety procedures

A top BWSSB official, while stating that the exact cause of the accident was yet to be ascertained, maintained that the precautions to be adopted were clear.

Before any workers enters a manhole, the lid should be opened and the Hydrochloric acid in the air inside allowed to escape for 30 minutes.

“A burning candle is placed at the entrance of the manhole.” If the candle gets extinguished, it means the poisonous gas is still present. Workers are permitted to go inside only if the candle continues to burn. Two officials of the Waste Management department had been suspended.

BWSSB may be sliced into four-Bangalore-Cities-The Times of India

BWSSB may be sliced into four-Bangalore-Cities-The Times of India
BWSSB might be split into four divisions if the government feels doing so will help in serving citizens better. Once the board is
decentralized, it will have four zones — north, south, east and west, each headed by a chief engineer.

“Each division will cater to the needs of seven of Bangalore’s 28 assembly constituencies,” BWSSB minister Katta Subramanya Naidu said on Friday. “The divisions will have separate wings for managing storm water drains and sewage treatment plants.”

He dismissing reports of privatization of water supply. “BWSSB will recover Rs 750 crore from illegal connections,” he added. According to reports prepared by the board, BWSSB is losing Rs 750 crore a year due to lakhs of unauthorized water connections. “We’ll set up a dedicated wing to detect illegal connections,” he said.

Reports stated that of 850 million litres per day (MLD) supplied by BWSSB, only 450 MLD are accounted for. Public taps, gardens and fountains use 150 MLD, another 150 is lost due to leakages and the remaining 100 MLD is drawn through illegal connections.

The board has also drawn a three-pronged action plan: rainwater harvesting, rejuvenation of tanks and reuse of water from storm water drains. The plan was approved after Naidu met BBMP officials and experts from Indian Institute of Science (IISc).

Things fishy at Nandagudi SEZ-Bangalore-Cities-The Times of Ind

Things fishy at Nandagudi SEZ-Bangalore-Cities-The Times of India
: After targeting former PWD minister H D Revanna, the BJP government has now trained guns on his brother and former CM H D

The government on Thursday ordered a Lok Ayukta probe into the mode of approval given to Mumbai-based SKIL Infrastructure Ltd to develop a multi-product SEZ at Nandagudi.

The State High Level Clearance Committee (SHLCC) in April 2007 and the cabinet in June 2007, both headed by Kumaraswamy, cleared the Rs 15,000-crore proposal to come up on 12,350 acres spread over 36 villages at Nandagudi in Hoskote taluk.

Terming the decisions of Kumaraswamy undesirable and non-transparent, the government has asked the Lok Ayukta to probe matters pertaining to whether SEZ norms prescribed by the Centre have been followed, whether facilities extended to SKIL are extended to other SEZs in the state and whether any maltransactions took place during approval of this SEZ. The proposed SEZ is located 30 km from BIA and 55 km from the city centre. Documents suggest that every government department had expressed its opposition for the project.

The government-owned BMRDA, which is planning to build a township in Nandagudi to decongest Bangalore, had censured the proposal by stating: “We have invited open global tendering process for taking up integrated township in Nandagudi. Allowing SKIL to set up SEZ in Nandagudi is not advisable at this stage."

The proposed SEZ will take up 12,350 acres of the around 18,000 acres that is earmarked for the township by the government. And what remains with the government in Nandagudi will be a mere 5,650 acres.

While revenue department had voiced that such “prime land" around Bangalore should not be given to a private developer, urban development had pointed out that the BMRDA was already planning a township and it was not advisable for a separate SEZ there. BWSSB, on its part, said no water supply be given to this SEZ. Even the KIADB, which acquires land for mega projects, had stated that the board so far has not acquired land for SEZ involving 36 villages in Hoskote taluk. The company claims to have various target industries like agro and food processing industries, IT/ITES, automobiles, micro-electronics and diamond processing.

Currently, this proposal is before the Union government's Board of Approval (BoA) for clearance. The government has also ordered a Lok Ayukta probe into the allegations surrounding construction of Garuda Mall on Magrath road.

Power cuts add to water woes-Bangalore-Cities-The Times of India

Power cuts add to water woes-Bangalore-Cities-The Times of India
It's time to fill your water containers as power cuts could just add to your woes. Reason: Local water pumping stations can't pump
water due to the long power cuts in some localities. Though there has been no serious water shortage as of now, the impending power cuts, from Friday, could affect supply in areas where the pumping stations are located.

A senior BWSSB official said on Thursday that the water supply will depend on the schedule of power cuts. He said the BWSSB was not expecting "a major crisis'' but localities including Beggars' Colony, High Grounds near Vidhana Soudha, the low-level reservoir near Race Course Road, parts of Malleswaram, Ulsoor, Johnson Market, Suranjan Das Road, Machchlibetta and Banaswadi could be affected during the power cut phases.

The city has been facing a water shortage of about 50 litres per capita per day for a couple of years, primarily because of the alarming growth in population. There was enough water in 2002 when the population was about 52 lakh, but at present, the population has touched 80 lakh.


BWSSB officials said they would request their chairman to take up the issue with KPTCL so that there was not much impact. The other steps include an extra feeder line for affected localities, and pressing generators if the crisis continues.

Water supply will improve with the addition of 500 million litres a day in 2011-12 when water will be pumped from Cauvery 4th stage, phase 2.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nov 13, 14 will be dry days

Nov 13, 14 will be �dry� days
Bangaloreans will be left with no choice but to get thrifty with water on November 13 and 14. All of the 19 pumps at the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board’s Torekadanahalli pumping station will remain shut on November 13 when the Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited (KPTCL) will undertake maintenance work at its 220-KV sub-station that supplies power to Torekadanahalli.

KPTCL Chief Engineer Mahadevappa said that the bus at the T K Halli sub-station is not properly aligned, causing fluctuations in the power supply. It might take 4 to 5 hours to repair the main bus and restore normal power supply, after which the second bus in the sub-station could be repaired, he said. A bus in a sub-station is used for distributing electrical power.

Explaining why the BWSSB would require two days to restore normal supply, BWSSB Chief Engineer Venkatraju said that technically the pumping motors cannot be started soon after the power supply was restored. “It requires some time as the water has to be pumped in three places and travel 100 km before it reaches Bangalore. The pumps have to be started one after another after some time gap,” he said.

There are 19 pumps in all the four stages of Cauvery at T K Halli. The water will travel at the speed of 2 metres a second when it is pumped at full speed, he added. The BWSSB will have to calculate the time and start the pumps in Arohalli as it was being done in TK Halli and the pumps have to be started once again in Tatagunni, he said.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Road widening work batters Yelahanka traders, residents

Road widening work batters Yelahanka traders, residents
Surendranath Gupta has not had a sound sleep for the past few days. Rats from open drains and fears of thieves looting the shops rendered shutterless due to road widening work have meant that he stays guard at his shop through the night.

So is the case with many a shop owner on the BB Road stretch in Yelahanka.

The shutters of the shops were removed by the shop owners as that portion of the land was identified for demolitions for the road widening work which started on Wednesday. Many houses and shops in the area thus stand partly demolished.

The shutter of Gupta’s shop was removed prior to the demolition process.

“Good that I had removed the shop shutter on my own, or else they would have caused more damage to the shop and it would have been an additional loss. Road widening work has meant loss in business and the Palike (BBMP) does not give any compensation,” he said, noting, “We cannot have the shutters till the road work is completed.We have to spend many nights guarding our stores”.


The water supply lines were damaged during the road work and water supply is affected in the area.

“We are getting the damaged pipes repaired at our own cost,” said Bhujang Roa, land owner.

“We were not given prior intimation about the demolitions and we had to face a lot of problems because of the sudden development.

All we wish is that they complete the road widening work at the earliest,” said Chandrashekar, another trader on this stretch.

When contacted the BBMP officials said that the work will be completed in 15 days.

The affected residents can only hope that the civic agency keeps its word.

Drawing up a green plan-Bangalore-Cities-The Times of India

Drawing up a green plan-Bangalore-Cities-The Times of India
Water scarcity has become a major hurdle for builders seeking clearance from the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) for
new projects. Many developers, unable to meet the requirement due to declining ground water levels, do not get clearance from the board.

KSPCB chairman H C Sharat Chandra said the board looks at two major environment-related concerns while giving approval for construction projects: water supply and waste-water management. Many clearances are not given due to these issues, he said, at a workshop on ‘Environmental Issues in Construction Sector’, organized by the KSPCB and Enzen Global Solutions on Wednesday.

He held declining ground water levels responsible for the problems faced by builders in meeting water requirements for new sites.

Chandra said new layouts don't have a system in place to drain out waste water
. The BBMP's solid waste management practices haven't kept pace with the realty boom in the city, he said. With the number of apartments rising steadily, he suggested that private participation could be explored to meet the solid waste management demands of the city.

Asked about initiatives to convert waste to power, Chandra pointed to the failure of similar projects initiated in Hyderabad and Vijayawada.

While acknowledging the importance of the building sector in providing employment and contributing to the GDP, Chandra said construction activities are being pursued without paying much attention to environmental concerns. This is putting pressure on the limited natural resources, besides having an impact on health.

KSPCB chief environmental officer N Simha explained the concerns that need to be addressed for projects to get approval. These include post-project compliance, post-project monitoring, environment management cost and prosecution. With regard to location, the KSPCB looks into sites' proximity to water bodies and zoning regulations.

Professor S Shiva Kumar, senior consultant, Enzen Global Solutions, said to mitigate the impact on the environment, the builder community should set time-bound targets. This includes aiming to stem the increase in greenhouse gas emissions
and reversing it over the next ten years. As buildings place huge demands on energy and materials that produce greenhouse gases, doing this would help counter increase in temperature due to global warming.

Construction activities contribute to 30% of baseline carbon dioxide emissions, said Uma Rajarathnam, head of environment practice at Enzen Global Solutions. This can be easily and cost-effectively reduced, she said.

Drawing up a green plan-Bangalore-Cities-The Times of India

Drawing up a green plan-Bangalore-Cities-The Times of India
Water scarcity has become a major hurdle for builders seeking clearance from the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) for
new projects. Many developers, unable to meet the requirement due to declining ground water levels, do not get clearance from the board.

KSPCB chairman H C Sharat Chandra said the board looks at two major environment-related concerns while giving approval for construction projects: water supply and waste-water management. Many clearances are not given due to these issues, he said, at a workshop on ‘Environmental Issues in Construction Sector’, organized by the KSPCB and Enzen Global Solutions on Wednesday.

He held declining ground water levels responsible for the problems faced by builders in meeting water requirements for new sites.

Chandra said new layouts don't have a system in place to drain out waste water
. The BBMP's solid waste management practices haven't kept pace with the realty boom in the city, he said. With the number of apartments rising steadily, he suggested that private participation could be explored to meet the solid waste management demands of the city.

Asked about initiatives to convert waste to power, Chandra pointed to the failure of similar projects initiated in Hyderabad and Vijayawada.

While acknowledging the importance of the building sector in providing employment and contributing to the GDP, Chandra said construction activities are being pursued without paying much attention to environmental concerns. This is putting pressure on the limited natural resources, besides having an impact on health.

KSPCB chief environmental officer N Simha explained the concerns that need to be addressed for projects to get approval. These include post-project compliance, post-project monitoring, environment management cost and prosecution. With regard to location, the KSPCB looks into sites' proximity to water bodies and zoning regulations.

Professor S Shiva Kumar, senior consultant, Enzen Global Solutions, said to mitigate the impact on the environment, the builder community should set time-bound targets. This includes aiming to stem the increase in greenhouse gas emissions
and reversing it over the next ten years. As buildings place huge demands on energy and materials that produce greenhouse gases, doing this would help counter increase in temperature due to global warming.

Construction activities contribute to 30% of baseline carbon dioxide emissions, said Uma Rajarathnam, head of environment practice at Enzen Global Solutions. This can be easily and cost-effectively reduced, she said.

Which is the correct way of taxing properties?

Moneycontrol >> News >> Business >> Which is the correct way of taxing properties?
Property tax has become the single largest source of revenue for municipal corporations following the abolition of octroi. Municipal corporation across the country complain short of funds, which is why they cannot provide civic services adequately but they do not tap property tax fully and nowhere is this gap as glaring as in Delhi.

Town Hall in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk is a 142 year old building, which came up soon after the rebellion of 1857. It houses one of the largest municipal corporations in the world that is responsible for providing civic services to nearly 14 million people.

Radisson Hotel near Delhi airport used to pay Rs 2.5 crore as property tax now its tax is 83% lower at Rs 42 lakh a year. Uppal Orchid’s bill at Rs 50 lakh is just 15% of what it was being charged earlier and Videocon Tower that at one time housed the studios of CNBC-TV18 pays just Rs 1.9 lakh, which is less than 1% of its earlier bill of Rs 2.21 crore. These are not isolated examples; the illustrative flow in tax and property is by area rather than value. According to PK Mohanty, who holds Doctorate degree in Urban Finance from Boston, Harvard the unit area method is more suited for residential properties that are homogenous than commercial ones.

PK Mohanty, Mission Director, National Urban Renewal Mission said, “There are three types of hotels support you consider; a five star hotel and a four star hotel and three star hotel. If you average the rates for the three types of hotels; four star is the average and if you adopt that rate to apply to five star, four star and three star you are basically subsiding the five star hotel and penalizing the three star hotel. So, in Hyderabad when we introduced the self assessment of property tax with unit area method we did not go for unit area in the case of commercial properties.”

Delhi shift in April 2004 to taxation according to area was well intended and correct. The earlier system of taxing according to rental value with a discount for self occupied ones resulted in similar properties being differently taxed depending on the age of tenancies. That gave huge discretion to municipal officials and scope for misuse. But, the new system was poorly designed. Upscale neighbourhoods like Hauz Khas were among 400 of Delhi’s 1,985 colonies whose rates were lowered under populist pressure.

All industrial properties were placed sixth on the list of seventh from the bottom in terms of rates as a further sweetener a 15% discount was given for taxes paid in one go within the first two months of the year. Property tax payment suddenly became less taxiing.

Shobhit Mahajan, Professor-Physics and Astrophysics, Delhi University said, “I was very happy with the unit area method because it was completely transparent; the area that you belong to, size of your flat determines how much property tax you paid. It was not dependent on some clerk sitting somewhere who is going to make a small change in your register and change your property tax. This also meant by the way that if you had a small flat in a not so fancy colony of Delhi you would end up paying much less property tax than if you had a huge house in Greater Kailash (in south of Delhi). So finally, I thought that there was some fairness in the system and it was much needed fairness.”

As a result, Delhi’s collection in 2006-2007 at Rs 800 crore were the same as in 2001-2002 despite an increase in number of properties and their value. If inflation was factored in, Delhi would have earned less in real terms. After the shift to unit area, collections dropped to Rs 817 crore from Rs 920 crore the previous year. This is because of a shift to voluntary payment or self assessment from the earlier payment by demand but collections were Rs 1,007 crore last year and is projected to rise to Rs 1200 crore this year as assessment and payment can now be done online saving tax payer from harassment and queues. Close to 1 lakh paid online last year, this year the number is expected to more than double.

Mahajan said, “The step - the online tax things is a very revolutionary idea because in one shot you have got rid of people having to go anywhere. You can actually print the assessment form by giving all the details, on the net you can get a printout; you can either pay on the net if you want.”

Ahmedabad claims a distinction of being the first municipal corporation to adopt the unit area method in 2001. The change was necessary because 72% of the properties were exempt from property tax as their annual treatable value was less than Rs 600. So, they were only paying for the water and tax of Rs 254 a year. The remaining 28% of properties bore the brunt and the tax paid was 110% of rental value.

IP Gautam, Commissioner, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation said, “There is a room to improve, we have more than 30 civic centres, authorised certain banks, we are collecting online, anybody can deposit from their home. But, we have a different kind of problem in property taxes. This is a textile capital of India in past and most of the textile mills closed their taxes and taxation before 2000 and 2001. Lot many recoveries were pending and slowly we are discussing with them our new clients. If they are disposing or auctioning that recovery is coming very slow and we have to expedite that particular amount due to 18% interest- the old arrears have mounted to a certain extent. We have concentrated on that. We can give some concession and recover more and more. As far as new demand is concerned, we do not have any problem of that kind.”

The tax on tenanted properties was as high as 15 times than that of self occupied one’s. There was rampant corruption, evasion and litigation ever since it moved to a simplified version, collection efficiency has improved. It is as much as 90% in the core 190 square kilometre area of Ahmedabad.

Nilakshi Patwa, Home Maker, Ahmedabad said, “Now the tax system is much better because you know what you are paying and every thing is very clear. If you want to even rent out a property, it doesn’t make much of a difference because you know what you will have to pay to the corporation.”

In free annual instalment in February this year, another 276 km have been brought within the purview of Ahmedabad Corporation, while property owners have gained from higher property prices and also higher floor space index and that has allowed for construction. There has been a steep rise in property tax liability as well. To soften the blow Municipal Corporation is giving a rebate for the first three years.

IP Gautam said, “Whatever 276 km area came in our Municipal Corporation, today we are giving 50% discount because we have not done much in that particular area. Next year we will give 25% discount but after two years that area will pay 100% tax.”

But, Ahmedabad does not rely on trust alone. Every four years a survey is conducted to record changes in carpet area and usage. Ahmedabad claims its rates are the lowest in the country but even then there are murmurs of discontent. The city must get a trophy for its ambition because of the ablation of Octroi last November. It has to double up on property tax collections against Rs 281 crore collected last year. It has set a target of Rs 560 crore for this year rather steep but the owner of this 32 year old shop seems to take it sportingly.

Taxing properties according to constructed area might not capture the vibrancy of a city’s property market. Karnataka has therefore adopted a system that is in practice internationally. Very soon, Delhi’s Municipal Corporation will move from its historic buildings to a modern one, but the property tax system will still be stuck in the past. It must learn from Karnataka which taxes according to capital value, taxes there are denoted as a percentage of guidance value which is average of purchase prices paid in an area in the previous year. These are the same rates that are applicable for payment of stamp duty for registration of property.

S Subramanya, Commissioner, Bangalore Municipal Corporation said, “As the capital value changes, the tax-flow also changes. So, this is a system where buoyancy is near one and so it is supposed to be an efficient system. That is why the government of Karnataka amended the act and said this capital value system should be applied for the whole state.”

Bangalore’s attempt to adapt the capital value system for new properties has backfired, the commissioner decided on a dual property tax system after court held out notices to owners of 300 commercial properties for evasion of tax were bad in law. But, the state government developed cold feet when they faced resistance from property owners who saw a huge increase in the tax bill. It did a return on the tax covered on square foot basis. The commissioner says there is not much on a legal basis for such a tax as the tax pays on property prices was legislated for the entire state including Bangalore in 2003.

Subramanya said, “The government has a right to give me directions, so they have the right to withhold the taxation system but that doesn’t mean automatically I go back to a system which is not there in law. Therefore, we do not have a taxation law as of now. However, the government has constituted the cabinet sub committee which is looking into all this details and there is an in principal agreement to implement the earlier system.”

A tax linked to property prices can promote such a development not only by improving revenue collections but also by compelling owners to put it to better use. But, it could be harsh on people who are property rich but cash poor.

Mohanty said, “Capital renew method is a good method all over the world and that is mainly because the capital value goes with the swing of the economy. If there is an off swing, there is inflation, then the service costs increase, the Municipalities need to meet those service costs and if the property tax is linked to the capital value then they can meet the needs of cost to services. But capital value in a country like India where there are lots of distortions in the cities, for example people having old and dilapidated buildings, they are not able to develop because of the zoning restrictions, if you put tax on capital value of those, they wont be able to pay because they are property rich but cash poor. Therefore, although we have to go for a capital value system in the long run we have to go in phases.”

Whatever the method of valuation, cities across the country is not tapping valuations of property taxes, only 5% of properties are escaping taxes in the previous set limit of 250 sq. km, that share is more than 60% after another 550 sq km was appended last year. In Delhi, only nine lakh properties are said to be in the tax net, a survey has been conducted but on the basis of water and electricity connections, it is estimated that there should be 16-18 lakh properties. They have now set up a company to map properties by satellite. A physical survey would still have to be conducted to determine views and size of properties.

KS Mehra, Commissioner, Municipal Corporation of Delhi said, “We are introducing property mapping for conducting joint surveys so that all the properties in the city could be brought under the property tax net.”

Rajesh Lakhoni, the Commissioner of Chennai Municipal Corporation says even those properties that are within the tax net are paying less than they should. Last year, Chennai shifted to the unit area system on a pilot basis. This has been extended to the whole city this year. Chennai has 5.85 lakh properties. Satellite mapping has been done, and the city is now doing house to house surveys. Though most of the properties have been listed, the Corporation estimates underassessment of residential properties to be as high as 40% or Rs 120 crore. That is high considering that last year Rs 280 crore was collected from this source.

Rajesh Lakhoni, Commissioner of Chennai Municipal Corporation said, “Leakages in the tax is a major challenge than actually capturing the land value, change in the land value. If your leakage is more than 100% or 200% then 20% variation in land value doesn’t really lead you anywhere. If the tax assessment system is so complicated that you cannot be sure whether the tax is right or not, then the leakages will be a challenge.”

Bangalore collected Rs 370 crore as property taxes in the year ending March 2007. The city’s High Value Assessment cell estimated that there are more than 300 buildings that should have paid Rs 1 crore each in taxes, but did not.

The comparison of returns filed before and after a new tax system was introduced in 2004 revealed that many owners had made false declaration to gain from the 50% discount that self-occupants are entitled to. The Corporation believes that taxpayers can be shamed into honesty.

Subramanya said, “Once you are able to say a lie and be with that, people continue to say lies. It is normal.”

So, what we are trying to do is, right now we have got health centres, and in these centres they propose a list to publicly advertise the taxation assessment return filed by a person. So, then transparency will show that somebody is a liar and he is my neighbour.

Chennai Municipal Corporation says it can attach properties in default but that provision is seldom invoked. There is no clarity either in the Delhi Municipal law whether attachment means possession of title deeds or physical property. An amendment has been proposed. A provision is also being made to disconnect water and electricity connections, which could be invoked against commercial and industrial properties without provoking an outcry.

Mehra said, “As of now, we can attach but we cannot take possession of the property. We can only attach and there are no teeth in that law. So, we will have to do something to make it really effective.”

Here is a verbatim transcript of the exclusive interview with Ramesh Ramanathan, Co-Founder of Janaagraha on CNBC-TV18. Also watch the accompanying video.

Q: We have been discussing property tax reforms across cities Ahmedabad, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore but one thing we find common in many of these places is that counsellors and corporaters who also have to go back to taxpayers are reluctant to increase the tax threat or tax properties properly. How do we fix the local politics problem?

A: I think it’s a very valid point that is the local government because they are closet to the people and they face the heat of public push back that they do feel reluctant to raise property taxes or bring them to the right levels and so we see a lot of distortions on the ground on property taxes commercials properties not paying as much as they should, revisions not happening as frequently as they should.

There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that we are not fully empowering cities which means if you empower city governments to say, “You are responsible for everything that the city needs.” Then the elected representative of the city will also feel the pressure and see the need for them to raise their revenues. So, that’s one part of it. Today what we are doing in India is we are not empowering the cities fully and therefore are getting the elected representatives or the corporaters to behave sub-optimally. They are gaming the system, they are not responsible to build the infrastructure, they don’t feel the pressure of raising the resources and so they act in their own interest or in an interest of a very local community need.

The second part of it is that the citizens don’t see the value for the money. The view of the citizen is why I should pay you my money for you to cheat me better I cheat you.

Q: We have now moved to the unit area system and to self assessment but you can trust a taxpayer only up to a certain point and I have seen from my own experience of reporting on the Finance Ministry that unless there is an element of fear people do not pay up? How do you make sure that self assessment is also backed up with efficient enforcement?

A: People are more than willing to come in and report but you need a characteristic, which means there must be the threat of government saying on some percentage maybe 1-2% of the case is, we are going to come and check and if you are caught having under reported you have a high penalty. The problem is if you do not trust the citizen enough and if you don’t penalise or you don’t have that random checking done well enough then that system of self assessment doesn’t work.

Q: The Bangalore Municipal Commissioner told us that he is going to put it out all into the open, advertise who has paid what. What are your views on the same?

A: I have a problem – there are two parts; one is to publicise and I think that’s a good thing and second is, today what Bangalore is doing, is planning to do rather to retrograde. We were in an environment where self assessment was done in a healthy way. Central to self assessment was a fact that the citizen actually says I have assessed and this is my belief of what my property tax is due and the system accepts that. If you say, I still have the discretion of government to say whether what you self assess is correct or not then that is not self assessment.

Q: You are saying you have self assessment but also have random checking?

A: Absolutely and in that random checking if somebody gets caught – god help you because you should be penalised.

Q: We also find that most municipal corporations have not made an inventory of the properties that they have and they are going in for satellite mapping, GIS (Geographic Information Systems). Do you think that they are right?

A: Flavour of the month today is GIS; every department of government wants to install its own GIS system and central to the logic of GIS is the fact that you need to have a common system because GIS is about having a base map and having layers and the logic of that is you have a service provider within government which is I will provide special data services to various municipal service providers, it could be city corporation for property taxes, it could be the water supply board for water supply, electricity and so on.

In order to do that correctly you need to have common formats, which means one can’t be on a scale of 1:10 the other on scale of 1:100 that’s the kind of illogic that we are seeing today in how government is implementing GIS systems. We are going to end spending a lot of money on which we get no returns.

Property taxes, Central and State devolutions will go only so far. It is important for municipal corporations to be able to leverage their balance sheets and borrow for income generating assets.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

46 slums to be relocated

46 slums to be relocated
The Karnataka Slum Clearance Board (KSCB) will be constructing 14,754 houses to relocate people living in 46 old slums in the city.

Chikka Bommasandra, Gajanana, Gangagondanahalli, Laggere, Rajagopalnagara, Pantharpalya, A D Halli, Ragigudda, and SBS Sanitarium are among the 46 slums that will be relocated.

The Central Government has sanctioned Rs 261 crore to construct 11,603 houses in the 1st phase and Rs 124.27 crore for 3,151 houses in the second phase under the Jawarlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).

Soon tenders will be floated for phase I of the project. The Central government will be providing 50 per cent of the funds for constructing the housing units, 40 per cent by the state government and the beneficiaries will have to contribute the other 10 per cent.

Each housing unit will have a constructed area of 2.7 to 3 squares. The KSCB will be providing infrastructure like roads, drains, water supply, auto stands, etc. to the colonies that would be housing the slum-dwellers under the ‘Basic Services For The Urban Poor’ scheme.

Technical director of the KSCB, Ravindrappa, said: “Our aim is to see that the slum-dwellers join the mainstream after they have been relocated. We will provide them all the required basic facilities.” The KSCB has already identified the beneficiaries by conducting a socio-economic survey and a biometric survey. In the socio-economic survey, the KSCB has collected the occupation, social and economic status and other details of beneficiaries and the photo and fingerprints were obtained in the bio-metric survey.

KSCB is planning to allot the houses as per the 1991 survey.

The land that would be obtained after clearing the slums would be used to develop residential layouts.

KSCB has identified 543 backward areas in the city, 231 of which have been declared as slums. Given the numbers, it is a tough haul for the Board to clear all the slums in the city.