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Using a Century Old Map for Demolition Angers People of Bengaluru

Residents point out the government is using a 1908 map of Bengaluru as the point of reference for the demolition drive. They say this map is too old and makes no sense in today’s Bengaluru, as it was a small city with a tiny population of less than five lakh a century ago. They demand a more recent and accurate map.

D P Satish | News18.comdp_satish

Updated:August 26, 2016, 2:15 PM IST
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Using a Century Old Map for Demolition Angers People of Bengaluru
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Bengaluru: The ongoing demolition drive in Bengaluru has rendered thousands of middle-class people homeless but it turns out that the city corporation is using an outdated map to identify buildings as illegal.

Residents point out the government is using a 1908 map of Bengaluru as the point of reference for the demolition drive. They say this map is too old and makes no sense in today’s Bengaluru, as it was a small city with a tiny population of less than five lakh a century ago. They demand a more recent and accurate map.

A top minister in the Siddaramaiah government admitted that the demolition is being done unscientifically, and based on an old map.

“You can’t use such maps in 21st century. A century ago, the city was not even five per cent of what it is today. Like all other cities in the world, Bengaluru has also been built on agricultural and waste land. What was a lake or a stream a century ago disappeared much before these structures came up. How can the BBMP use such an outdated map to identify illegal structures? They should use a recent map,” the minister told CNN-News18 without coming on record.

Criticising the manner in which demolition was carried out, former Information Technology secretary to state government Vivek Kulkarni wrote: "Bengaluru is higher than sea level and water flows from one lake to another through the canals. The city municipal officials demolished thousands of houses, citing encroachment of lakes and connecting canals. While doing so they relied on a 1908 British map of the city. Citizens are aghast and the tales of destruction are heart breaking. Since Bengaluru lakes were well connected via canals, water used to drain easily.

"However, houses blocked the old drainage system, causing roads to flood and people to suffer for weeks. The state decided to demolish all unauthorised constructions. Since the new buildings have been built haphazardly, the municipal authorities had to take an old 1908 British map to locate the original boundaries of the lakes and canals. The city does not have new maps. Land records are in a mess and cannot be trusted. Successive governments have encouraged the corrupt municipal officials."

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah ordered the demolition of all illegal structures built on stormwater drains, called Raja Kaluves, after a heavy rain last July flooded many parts of the city. The city corporation Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Pallike (BBMP) has been tearing down the buildings with help from Bengaluru Metropolitan Task Force (BMTF).

Several houses have been pulled down and others have been partially demolished depending on the extent of encroachment. Some tales of destruction are heart-breaking with people losing what they have built over their life-time.

A 100 years ago, Bengaluru had over a thousand small and big lakes which came down to 600 in the early 1970s and to less than 100 in recent years. During the IT boom over the last 20 years, the real estate sector encroached upon hundreds of lakes and turned them into expansive commercial lands.

Mayor BN Manjunath Reddy, however, claims the demolition was being done scientifically and systematically. “We are taking all precautions before demolishing the illegal structures. We are not harassing genuine people. Only the verified maps are being used,” he said.

BBMP Commissioner Manjunath Prasad also defends the maps being used by BBMP. “My focus and priority is to clear the encroachments on the low-lying areas. The only thing that delayed our drive was lack of surveyors to mark encroachments and nothing else,” he said.

News18 spoke to several MLAs and ministers from Bengaluru city about the ongoing demolition drive and the controversy over old maps. Almost all of them expressed unhappiness over the manner in which it is being done.

A six-time Congress MLA and a senior minister who did not wish to be named said, “Demolition is affecting only common people. I don’t support this. In less than 20 months we are going to face the Assembly elections, if the demolition does not stop we will be doomed”.

But Siddaramaiah is unrelenting. He has made it clear that demolition will not stop and it should be completed in the next four months.

| Edited by: Rashi Mathur
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