Five days more, that’s all the 400 residents of the four apartment buildings in Kochi’s Maradu have, to vacate their respective houses - their own houses - before they are razed to the ground for violating the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms. As part of executing the SC order to demolish the four buildings by September 20, which is 10 days from now, the Maradu Municipality has served notice to 334 flat owners on September 10, to vacate their building in next five days, i.e., by September 14.
When TNM contacted, the Maradu Municipality Secretary was in the process of serving the notice to the owners of four apartment buildings - Jains Coral Cove, Golden Kayaloram, H2O Holy Faith and Alfa Serene. The first notice has been served to the Jains Coral Cove, which has 122 apartments. However, the residents closed the gates of the apartment to prevent the officials from entering the premises. Since the flat owners of Jains Coral Cove, Alfa Serene and H2O Holy Faith refused to accept the notice, the officials pasted them on the gates of the building and left. Although residents of Golden Kayaloram received the notice, they immediately gave a letter stating they will not accept this and would file a curative petition.
As per the notice, the residents will be given five days to leave the premises, and if they failed to do so, it will be considered a violation of the Supreme Court order. Additionally, as per the 1994 Municipal Act and other laws applicable to this case, the municipality secretary will initiate prosecution procedures against the violators without any further notice and the legal expenses in this regard will be obtained from them.
The residents also said that they will undertake a hunger strike in front of the municipality on Wednesday. Meanwhile, they are clinging on to their last thread of hope, the curative petition, which they will file before the Supreme Court on Wednesday. The SC, on Friday, gave an ultimatum to demolish the buildings for violating the CRZ norms. The residents will file a curative petition, which is the last judicial corrective measure that can be pleaded for in any judgment or decision the apex court has passed.
The Coastal Regulation Zone rules prohibit the construction of a building within a certain distance from the coast, backwaters, river and lake beds. The apartments in question are located on the backwaters of the Vembanad lake. The residents and builders said that when the buildings were constructed, it was CRZ II classified, which allows construction on the landward side of existing roads. However, the SC found that when the buildings were sanctioned and built between 2005 and 2009, the areas were CRZ III classified, which allows construction beyond 200 metres from the High Tide Line (HTL), although local rules must be followed.
The CRZ rules were modified in Kerala in 2011, which allows buildings beyond 50 metres from the HTL on the landward side of backwater islands, with the prior permission of the gram panchayat. However, the SC observed that since the 2011 plan was not sanctioned by the Union government, and so, the rules from 1996 would apply and reclassification will be invalid.
For the 334 homeowners, these violations translate into loss of their life savings. The residents are, however, determined not to leave the building even if officials arrive to demolish the structures, they said.
On Monday, when Kerala Chief Secretary Tom Jose along with Ernakulam District Collector S Suhas visited some of these buildings, a few of the residents started chanting slogans, including ‘Go Back’, while others expressed their disappointment.