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Bengaluru, May 12, 2016: Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF), supported by Founder Trustee Shri Rajeev Chandrasekhar, MP and Forward Foundation, the lead petitioners in the Agara-Bellandur Lake case today expressed their gratitude to all Bengalureans, NGOs, legal experts and Resident Welfare Associations who fought relentlessly alongside them and won the battle against the illegal execution of a large commercial project coming up in the ecologically sensitive valley zone between Agara and Bellandur   Lake. This landmark verdict by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) against builders and conniving officials also stands testimony to the power of collective citizen action.

At a time when Bengaluru was losing its lakes to vested interest, the NGT’s landmark judgement comes as a shot in the arm for all those who have strived hard to release the city from the clutches of haphazard growth.

Since its inception in 2009, Namma Bengaluru Foundation has been relentlessly working towards empowering citizens and providing a platform to voice their concerns.  In the past, NBF has filed various Public Interest Litigations to bring greater transparency and accountability, and strengthen the institutions governing the city.

We are committed to Bengaluru and we believe Namma Bengaluru is worth protecting and fighting for. This will not be realized unless all the citizens and citizen groups engage and collaborate towards achieving the following objectives:

1. Accountability: Ensure that the Government and its Agencies are accountable as trustees of public money and assets; which if misused then the specific institution and the erring officials will be held accountable and answerable.

a.            Ensuring the functioning of government agencies becomes transparent.

b.            All public assets (land, lakes, public spaces and money) must be protected and every rupee of public funds must be accounted for and recorded in a transparent manner to prevent corruption in all forms.

c.             Every aspect of Corruption will be challenged; the corrupt will be exposed & prosecuted; all vested Interests will be fought.

2. Citizens Participation: Citizens of Bengaluru must have a stronger role in development planning and governance of their city enabled through participation in RWAs and Ward Committees.

Speaking at the occasion, Sridhar Pabbisetty, CEO, Namma Bengaluru Foundation said, “We deeply acknowledge the tireless efforts of our Founder Trustee – Shri Rajeev Chandrasekhar, MP whose unflinching commitment to Bengaluru and the protection of its lakes serves as an inspiration to us. More such victories in our ‪#‎BigBengaluruFight can be achieved if well-meaning citizens and NGOs come together to fight for the city’s betterment and reclaim it. Hence, we urge all our Resident Welfare Associations friends, concerned citizens, organizations and the media to join us in our #BigBengaluruFight against negligence and corruption.”

History of Citizens Battle Against the Developers

The history of the ongoing litigation dates back to 2013 when a group of Resident Welfare Associations in Koramangala, HSR and Bellandur along with Namma Bengaluru Foundation and the Citizens Action Forum filed a Public Interest Writ in the High Court of Karnataka drawing the attention of the court to the potentially catastrophic consequences that could result if the projects in question were allowed to come up. A few months later, a few other Citizen groups- Forward Foundation, Bangalore Environment Trust, PrajaRaag filed an application before the National Green Tribunal(Southern Zonal Bench) in 2014 against the development of a large mixed used SEZ project in the eco-sensitive land between Agara and Bellandur Lake. The bench granted an interim stay on the construction activities. However, the members recused themselves and the matter was transferred to the Principal Bench at New Delhi. The Bench passed the final order in this matter on 4th May 2016.

The projects spread over 80 acres and being developed by Mantri Techzone P Ltd. and Coremind Software & Services Pvt. Ltd pose serious threat to the survival of one of Bengaluru’s largest fresh water lakes – Bellandur Lake. Not only is it situated on an ecologically sensitive area, it also encroaches on Rajakaluves (Stormwater Drains) which drains rainwater into Bellandur Lake.  With a built up area of over 1350454.98 sq. mts and car parking facility for over 14,000 cars, the project is nothing short of an environmental disaster. The very magnitude of the project, along with the strain it would place on the existing infrastructure on its completion is a serious concern for residents of the adjoining area. An IISC report has clearly laid out the non-sustainability of the SEZ project in a valley zone and the adverse impact on the topography of the lake.

Apart from the serious environmental impact, the project stands out for the brazen manner in which the developers/builders have violated conditions laid out by various authorities, including the State Level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC), Karnataka State Pollution Control Board and the State level Environment Impact Assessment Authority. The developers have not only destroyed portions of the Raja Kaluves and constructed on the valley zone, but Coremind even went to the extent of commencing construction before its environmental clearance.

The NGT has also recorded serious charges of land grabbing against Mantri Techzone P Ltd and has asked for an area of 3 Acres 10 guntas to be restored to the Government.

Highlights of the Judgement:

·         New Buffer norms for lakes to be 75 m instead of 30 m. Rajakaluve buffer norms will now be 50 m, 35 m and 25 m for primary, secondary and tertiary drains measured from the Kaluve boundary. These norms are applicable to both Mantri Techzone and Coremind.

·         Revised buffer norms applicable to other projects with Prospective effect not retrospective effect

·         Structures of Mantri and Coremind not complying with the new buffer zones to be demolished including compound walls.

·         Mantri Techzone and Coremind directed to remove material dumped on Rajakaluves forthwith failing which Government will have to do it and recover the cost from them

·         A detailed traffic study and hydrological study will have to be conducted to assess impact of traffic and to decide locations of tertiary drains on the property. All this has to precede a fresh sanction plan

·         The existing clearances are set aside for both Mantri and Coremind

·         Only Sewage treated water to be used henceforth for construction projects in Bangalore

·         Fines confirmed for both developers. Rs. 117.35 crore for Mantri Techzone and Rs. 13.5 crore for Coremind. Fines need to be deposited before any sanction plan can be considered afresh.