Locals protest with nine days to go for demolition of Kochi flats
Four apartment complexes in Maradu in Kochi will be razed next weekend for flouting coastal regulation zone (CRZ) norms but local residents have hit the streets again saying most of the promises remain unfulfilled.
Prior to the controlled explosion, the walls of the building have been removed. And once the final nod is given by the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization, explosives will be inserted into the flats, officials said. They said around 800 kgs of explosives have reached the port city for this and more will come in a few days.
However, many locals living around the building complex said their dwellings have developed cracks and they will deteriorate further after the explosion. Agitated, they have started a hunger strike against the district authorities for ignoring their safety concerns. They said though the district administration has promised compensation and insurance coverage in case of any damage to their properties they were yet to receive any assurance in this regard.
“We have asked the authorities to first demolish the flats that are in areas with sparse population. Then we can gauge the exact damage and act accordingly. But they are first demolishing H2O Holy Faith flats that are situated in the midst of many houses on Jan 11,” said K R Shaji, spokesperson of the local residents. He said after minor demolition of walls some of the houses in nearby areas had developed cracks and they will widen after final explosions.
Earlier, the authorities had decided to carry out ‘controlled implosion’ to bring down about 10 lakh sq feet concrete structures. Experts say controlled implosion is an accepted demolition technique in which explosives will be placed on strategic spots of structures and ignited to raze within its perimeters. To prevent debris from falling far, the buildings will be covered with sheets of iron mesh and geo textiles, officials said. This is the first time in the country such major concrete structures are being pulled down for violating CRZ norms.
The Kochi flats case came up in 2007 after the vigilance wing of the state’s local self-government body had directed the Maradu Panchayat to cancel 31 building permits for various violations, including coastal regulation zone (CRZ) norms. But, later the Kerala High Court had stayed its order and construction continued. The Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority (KSCZMA) had moved the top court in 2016, saying five buildings—four occupied and one under construction—came close to the backwaters violating CRZ III norms. According to CRZ III, if an area is notified it should be relatively undisturbed and untouched.
In May this year, the SC had ordered the demolition of these flats saying they violated CRZ norms. On September 6, it pulled up the state for not implementing its order and gave an ultimatum. It passed severe strictures against the state for flouting its judgments repeatedly. It gave an ultimatum to demolish the flats by September 20. On September 20, the state government filed an action taken report and the chief secretary tendered an apology to the top court. He gave an undertaking that the flats would be demolished by the second week of January.