Drain pain? Tech solution
Bangalore, Nov. 1: Harried home-owners in Bangalore's Whitefield can now breathe a bit easy: a free Web application can help them check whether their properties are encroaching on storm water drains in violation of land rules.
Developed by a city-based techie after corporation bulldozers recently razed parts of homes standing on such drains, Mapshalli covers only 33 areas in and around the tech neighbourhood of Whitefield at the moment. But it could soon cover the whole city.
One of the families that had to pull down a concrete pillar on their residential premises was of Lt Col E.K. Niranjan, the NSG commando who was killed during mop-up operations after the terrorist attack on Pathankot air base in January.
Bothered by the spate of demolitions carried out to reclaim storm water drains, software engineer Shiv Shankar - he is from IIT Madras - decided it was time he checked if all was clear with his property in Whitefield.
"I basically used available technology to check if my property stood clear of any rajakaluve (principal storm water drain), but in the process ended up developing this application," said the former director of enterprise software technology at Intel.
The demolitions began after it was discovered that outflow of water during the monsoon was being blocked by encroached drains, leading to flooding in some areas of north Bangalore. Water flows through a network of smaller secondary storm water drains into principal drains that open into lakes across the city.
There are survey maps that the city corporation, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), has uploaded on its website but ordinary people find it tough to decipher them. Not only are they in Kannada, they are very technical too. That was where Shankar's skills came into play.
"It's a very cumbersome process to even find the relevant survey map on BBMP's webpage and then decode them to figure out if your property is on a rajakaluve. What I basically did was to overlay their map over Google Earth to give the lay user an easy solution with a few clicks," said Shankar.
His application provides a clear picture of where principal and secondary storm water drains are. "Around 120 people from other parts of the city have already contacted me to help them check if their properties stand on storm water drains," he said.
Going by the interest his application has generated, Shankar sounded confident that MapsHalli could one day become a user-generated one - something like Wikipedia where users generate content.
A corporation official said violations would happen with or without such solutions: "There are nearly 2,000 properties under scrutiny for encroaching on storm water drains."
E.K. Shashank, the brother of Lt Col Niranjan, said: "It's good that something is available for commoners to easily check if they have erred unwittingly."
Thippe Gowda, a real estate agent, said the corporation's anti-encroachment drive had hit buyer confidence. "Earlier, buyers mostly wanted to know if the property had proper documents and got them checked by lawyers. But now they are worried about encroachment on government land and storm water drains," he said.
"I think using technology is the only way to find out details like if there was a drain in the place where one is going to build a house. It's very difficult to get such information from the corporation."