Bengaluru’s municipal body, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), has said that solar water heaters and rooftop solar panels are mandatory for occupation certificates (OCs) to be issued.
"We will not issue an OC without inspecting these installations. In Bengaluru, the responsibility to inspect all high-rise buildings (G+4 and above) lies with the BBMP head office. While other buildings fall in the jurisdiction of zonal offices," B Manjesh, Joint Director (North) Town Planning, BBMP, told Moneycontrol.
This comes after several appeals to the municipal corporation about under-construction and fully-constructed apartments holding OCs in spite of several violations of municipal regulations.
A homebuyer at the Casagrand Lorenza project has filed a complaint with the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC), claiming that his apartment lacks solar water heaters and solar panels as prescribed by BBMP Byelaws, 2003.
Bagewadi Shashidhar paid over Rs 1.3 crore to purchase two apartments in the project. He claimed the project had been issued an OC in January 2022 in spite of not complying with several regulations..
"We do not have solar panels in the project. We should have 32 solar water heaters, however, only six have been installed, which too are lying idle as they haven’t been connected to the plumbing," he added.
According to the byelaws, residential buildings with a floor area of 200 sq m or site area of more than 400 sq m should have solar heaters that can provide 100 litres of heated water daily to every unit. Additionally, multi-apartment residential buildings of five or more need to have solar panels installed to power common amenities like lights, etc.
Shashidhar said he had made two appeals to BBMP on the matter, but had failed to get a response. "After much follow-up, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) sent a show-cause notice to the developer in August 2022 for several deviations in the project," he added.
A list of questions has been sent to the developer Casa Grande Garden City Builders, and Moneycontrol will update the story after receiving a response.
Errol Noronha, who stays in a luxurious House of Hiranandani apartment in Bengaluru, said the project does not have solar water heaters or solar panels despite having an OC. "We never thought of it, thus never questioned this," he added.
The problem at large
About 25 of 56 homebuyers and tenants residing in fully-constructed apartments that Moneycontrol spoke to said they did not have solar water heaters or solar panels.
Dhananjaya Padmanabhachar, who stays in a high-rise apartment in JP Nagar, said that only the apartments on the top floor have connections to solar water heaters. "This is common in Bengaluru, where developers provide solar water heaters and solar panels to the top floor to show the municipal bodies that they have complied with the provisions," he added.
Right to Information (RTI) activist and Bangalore City Flat Owners’ Welfare Association President Anil Kalgi said about 80 percent of the apartment buildings in Bengaluru are in violation of these bylaws even as they hold a valid OC.
Ironically, Kalgi himself stays at a high-rise apartment in IBC Platinum City, which does not have any of these provisions.
Manjesh said: "No OC will be issued unless we have photographs of the installations in our records. Please send us a list of all the projects and we will escalate the matter."
Last month, the Bengaluru Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM) had started implementing phase 2 of the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy-backed Grid Connected Rooftop Solar Scheme.
BESCOM, which had a target of generating 1,200 megawatt (MW) of electricity through rooftop solar panels by January 2022, managed to generate 216.37 MW until December 31, 2022.
Experts say a lack of awareness, not just among the government departments but also among the homebuyers, is the reason for the violation of these rules.
Jibin Jayaram, a homebuyer in Klassic Apartment, agrees. "Till today, I was not aware that these things are necessary for obtaining an OC. In fact, our master plan that’s approved by BBMP does not mention such installations," he added.
Kalgi added that though BBMP byelaws clearly state the requirement of solar water heaters and solar panels, however, they do not say whether the OC can be given in case of non-compliance with these provisions. It all comes down to the implementation by the local bodies, he said.However, Shashidhar pointed out that the site plan approved by BBMP mentions that the OC will only be issued only if provisions like solar water heaters, rainwater harvesting, etc. have been complied with. "This clearly shows that these provisions are necessary for issuing the OC," he added.