4 luxury residential buildings in Kochi to be demolished on Jan 11, 12: Things to know

Two agencies will carry out controlled implosion (using explosives) of the four apartment buildings in Maradu on Saturday and Sunday.
4 luxury residential buildings in Kochi to be demolished on Jan 11, 12: Things to know
4 luxury residential buildings in Kochi to be demolished on Jan 11, 12: Things to know
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It will probably be one of the rare moments in India where four residential buildings — all of which were occupied for several years — are set to be demolished for violating environmental laws.

On May 8, 2019, four luxury apartment buildings in Kochi’s Maradu municipality – Alfa Serene, Golden Kayaloram, H20 Holy Faith, and Jains Coral Cove – were ordered to be demolished, by the Supreme Court. The apex court adjudicated that these waterfront apartments violated the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules, which prohibits construction within a certain distance from the coast, backwaters, river and lake beds.

As the builders of these four apartment buildings washed their hands off the case, the residents ran from pillar to post and took various legal recourses to stop the demolition. However, the Supreme Court upheld its judgment throughout. The four buildings will now be demolished on January 11 (Saturday) and January 12 (Sunday).

From how the buildings and its residents got entangled in the case to how the demolition of these buildings will be carried out, here are five things to know.

1. The demolition dates

Holy Faith H2O flat and twin towers of Alpha Serene, which are separated by around 60 metre-wide backwaters, will be demolished on January 11 with a five-minute gap between the two demolitions. Jains Coral Cove and Golden Kayaloram will be demolished on January 12 at 11 am and 2 pm respectively.

The explosives have already been placed in these buildings and mock drill was also conducted on Friday to ensure all personnel involved, including the fire tenders, are prepared and know their designated spot.

2. The demolition process

Two agencies – Mumbai-based Edifice Engineering and Tamil Nadu-based Vijay Steels and Explosives – will carry out the demolition. While Edifice Engineering will carry out the demolition of H2O Holy Faith, Jains Coral Cove and Golden Kayaloram, Vijay Steels and Explosives will demolish the twin towers of Alfa Serene. 

The demolition of the four buildings will be carried out by controlled implosion, using explosives. This means that on demolition, the buildings will collapse inward (implosion), unlike an explosion where the debris falls outwards.

According to SB Sarwate, a demolition expert in India, the debris will not fall more than 20 metres away from the buildings and that buildings in the vicinity will not be affected.

A total of 943 kg explosives will be used to demolish the four buildings, at a cost of Rs 2.32 crore.

3. Arrangements, safety measures on demolition days

According to the Ernakulam District Collector, prohibitory orders will be imposed around 200 metres of the four buildings after 9 am on both the days. The side roads in the area will be closed 30 minutes prior to the demolition. Around 500 police personnel will be deployed at the sites.

A total of about 2,000 people living around the area will be evacuated three hours before the demolition. They will be allowed to return, four hours after the demolition. Two centres have been arranged to temporarily shelter these residents - Thevara Sacred Hearts College and Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies at Panangad.

Traffic regulations will start 30 minutes before the demolition. Two highways near the apartments — NH 966B and NH 66 — which pass through Kundanoor, will be blocked 10 minutes prior to the demolition. Two minutes after the implosion, there will be a siren, following which the traffic will resume.

4. How four buildings were caught in controversy

The four buildings in question are located precariously close to the Vembanad lake, which is one of the largest lakes in Kerala and a wetland of international importance under the National Wetlands Conservation Programme.

The controversy around the Maradu buildings began in 2005, during an inspection by the vigilance wing of the Local Self Government Department (LSGD) against a panchayat official in Maradu. At the time, Maradu was a panchayat. During the inspection, it was found that the panchayat had given 13 apartment buildings (including the four buildings set to be demolished) permits to start construction while violating the CRZ norms. The builders of the four apartments, who had started the construction by 2006, approached the High Court. That was the beginning of the legal battle, where eventually residents and the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA) got involved.

The question that arose was under which CRZ zone classification would these buildings fall. The residents contended that the apartments were built in CRZ II zone, which allows the construction of buildings in urban areas, including municipalities, on the landward side of existing roads. By 2010, Maradu panchayat was elevated as a municipality. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, based on a report by a three-member committee (appointed by the apex court), concluded that when the apartments were sanctioned and built (between 2005 and 2009), the area was CRZ III classified, which means that the construction is allowed only beyond 200 metres from the High Tide Line. This deemed any construction illegal.


5. How many families affected

Jains Coral Cove has 128 apartments in 19 floors; Golden Kayaloram has 40 apartments in 17 floors; H2O Holy Faith has 91 flats in 19 floors; and the twin towers of Alfa Serene has 80 apartments in 32 floors. Each of the apartments cost between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 1.5 crore.

Hence, more than 300 homeowners, who knowingly or unknowingly bought these contentious apartments, lose their life savings with this demolition. However, 246 families, who had occupied and made these flats their homes, have now been affected.

They filed multiple review petitions, staged numerous protests and hunger strikes, and finally, with no hope in sight, relented. After the electricity and water supply to the buildings were cut off, they vacated the flats by November 2019. As directed by the Supreme Court, all affected flat owners will be given Rs 25 lakh each as interim compensation.


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