Over 2000 residents of four apartment complexes in Kochi’s Maradu, who have been asked to vacate their homes by the SC, have been protesting for more that a week against the order.

SC demolition order on Maradu Will other buildings violating CRZ norms meet same fate
news Housing Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - 16:43

With the Supreme Court (SC) of India having ordered to demolish four apartment complexes situated in the locality of Maradu in Kerala’s Ernakulam district, for violating the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms, questions have arisen as to whether other buildings which have been found to have violated the said norms, will meet the same fate.

Over 334 apartments consisting of over 2,000 residents residing in the four apartment complexes of Jains Coral Cove, Golden Kayaloram, H20 Holy Faith and Alfa Serene in Maradu, were asked to vacate their homes before September 15 as the SC has ordered for the demolition of these buildings on September 20. However, the residents have refused to vacate and have been protesting for more than a week against the SC order.

Addressing the media after meeting the protesting residents in Ernakulam, state Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala on September 14 had questioned whether there are different laws for different builders. The Congress leader was speaking about the instances were various builders who were found to have flouted environmental norms were let off by the SC after asking them to pay a huge fine as penalty. “Illegal constructions by various builders in the past were regularised by asking them to pay a fine. Why can’t we do something like that here as well? Is there a separate law for different builders here?” he had asked.

The demolition order of the apartments in Maradu has opened a can of worms regarding the construction of various other buildings which are also under the scanner for flouting environmental norms.

On September 15, Harish Vasudevan, a Kochi based lawyer and environmental activist took to Facebook to point out that the demolition of the apartment complexes will not bring to an end the number of buildings constructed in eco-sensitive areas. He went on to cite the example of an apartment located in Marine Drive, alleging that the building was constructed without obtaining environmental clearance.

The lawyer states that in 2015, the Ministry of Environment and Forests had put forth two conditions in its order for a building to obtain environmental clearance — The building should be constructed at least 200 metres away from a lake and it should not be constructed with more than a height of 60 metres.

“Anyone who passes through this apartment located near the Goshree bridge in Ernakulam will understand there is not even a distance of 50 metres from the lake to the apartment,” points out Harish. 

He stated that the authorities including Kochi Corporation, town planners and the district collector during the 2010-15 period have turned a blind eye towards the flouting of norms.

Alfa Serene apartment

Other cases in the past

The apartment complexes in Maradu are not the first ones to have have been found violating the CRZ norms. In the past, there have been cases where apartments have been ordered to be demolished for violating CRZ norms but have been let off by the SC by paying hefty fines.

One such case happened in 2014, when the Kerala High Court ordered for the demolition of a waterfront property of a building by DLF, which was built along the eco-sensitive Chilavannur backwaters in Ernakulam. However, a division bench of the Kerala HC in 2016 stated that although the construction was illegal, the demolition of the buildings would cause more damage than letting it remain. Hence, DLF was asked to pay a fine of Rs 1 crore to the local administration.

Following the HC verdict, the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority had approached the apex court of the country requesting to order for the demolition of the building, however, the SC upheld the order of the HC division bench. It allowed DLF to regularise the construction and pay the fine.

A similar case was faced by the Lakeshore Hospital, again in Kochi, after a resident of Nettoor Village in Ernakulam approached the Kerala HC in 2003 stating that the hospital has been constructed in violation of the law. However, the HC dismissed his plea by stating that the construction of the hospital had begun in 1997, close to the area where the petitioner was living and that if the construction was wrongly undertaken, then the petitioner could have easily moved against the builder at that time itself. 

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