Thiruvananthapuram: It’s Onam eve in Kerala, the day when preparations for the state’s biggest annual festival hits a crescendo. But for over 350 apartment owners spread over five big buildings in Kochi, these are heart-stopping hours, as the countdown begins towards the structures’ demolition.
For many of them, their apartments represent their lives’ earnings. The reason for the demolition is the illegality of the construction of the buildings.
India’s Supreme Court ordered the buildings destroyed by September 20, pointing out that they violated coastal regulation zone provisions when they were constructed nearly two decades ago.
After years of legal battles, the apartment owners found the earth slipping under their feet when the local Maradu municipality decided on Tuesday to issue notices to the residents to vacate their apartments within five days, to enable the demolition.
The apartment owners are making a last-ditch attempt to save their homes with another plea to the Supreme Court, but the apex court had already indicated that it would not accommodate any more petitions. The five buildings facing demolition are Holy Faith, Kayaloram, Alfa Ventures, Holiday Heritage and Jain Housing.
The apartment owners’ hopes have faded further with the municipality releasing advertisements calling for tenders to demolish the five buildings. They are likely to be demolished by a controlled implosion, supervised by an expert team.
At the heart of the matter is that as per the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification of 1991 and the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Plan 1996, the location of the buildings came under CRZ III. As per the CRZ notification 1991, no construction was permitted within 200 metres from the coastal line in CRZ III.
While several owners poured out their hearts to state chief secretary Tom Jose when he visited the area on Monday, numerous people took to social media to discuss the matter in which many unwitting apartment buyers purchased the flats not knowing that there was a problem with the buildings’ legality.
“Where was the law and order at the time of construction? They should have stopped it then, not now. The flat owners have nothing to do with these rules and regulations of construction,” wrote one commentator, while another questioned why the apex court was not pulling up the local body officials and the builders who virtually duped buyers.