File Photo of Karnataka Law Minister TB Jayachandra.
Malls and high-rise buildings, including apartments, built illegally on storm water drains of the city would be demolished to prevent flooding after heavy rains, Karnataka Law Minister TB Jayachandra said on Wednesday.
"We are determined to demolish all buildings constructed illegally on encroached storm water drains and lake beds across the city and blocking rain water flow to prevent flooding," Mr Jayachandra told reporters after the state cabinet at a meeting here unanimously took the decision.
Though the minister did not specify how many buildings, including malls and apartments, would be razed, he mentioned that a high-rise apartment building of leading realtor Prestige Group at Bellandur was identified for demolition as it was illegally built on a storm water drain.
The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) a month ago launched a massive demolition drive after heavy rains in July flooded low-laying areas and arterial roads, as water flow in the storm water drains was blocked and two-three lakes breached due to encroachments around them.
"We have taken up the demolition drive in compliance with the 2011 Karnataka High Court's order, which directed the civic corporation to clear buildings which encroached storm water drains to stop flooding," reiterated Mr Jayachandra.
The cabinet decision comes in the light of public criticism of the state government and the BBMP as buildings and houses of middle class and poor built on the drains were being demolished while those of the rich and real estate firms were spared.
"We will demolish all buildings illegally built on such drains, be they a massive apartment block, a mall or even an ordinary house," asserted Mr Jayachandra.
Claiming that the Prestige apartment building had come up on a main storm water drain at Bellandur, the minister said as a result, the 150-foot wide drain was reduced to just 10 feet, with a part of the structure encroaching 140 feet of the drain.
"The builderwants us to divert the drain so that his building could be saved. But we are not going to heed to such requests. We will demolish it," Mr Jayachandra said.
Asked about Orion Mall, which the BBMP had identified as being on a storm water drain in the south-west suburb, the minister said the corporation would inspect the structure and demolish it if it is found to be illegal.
"We will not differentiate between the rich and poor in the demolition drive, as clearing the storm water drains of encroachments was imperative to avoid a repeat of heavy flooding in Chennai last year after a deluge," noted Mr Jayachandra.
Of 1,300 small and big buildings the BBMP had identified as those encroaching drains, about 100-150 have been demolished till date, mostly on the city's outskirts.
"As the rich and big realtors know the law, they exploit loopholes or lacuna in it and secure a court order staying demolition. We are aware of that. None will be spared, as the city cannot be choked by illegal structures on storm water drains," added the minister.
In its reaction, Prestige said it was not aware of which of its buildings was being referred to by the minister.
"We are unaware of which building is being referred to. We are open to scrutiny and audit at any time. We move forward with the assurance that our stand will be vindicated and we will come out clean," said Prestige Chairman and Managing Director Irfan Razack in a statement here hours after Mr Jayachandra's briefing.
Asserting that the group respected rule of law, Razack said works it had undertaken till date were completed with requisite permissions and sanctions.
"We respect the environment and have always focused on developing eco-friendly properties. The spaces we create enhance the value of our property as well as of the area in which the development is located," he added.