After a 13-year old legal battle, over 80 families lost their homes in Ernakulam, Kerala, as two posh apartment complexes were demolished in the first phase, a controlled explosion for violations of coastal regulation norms.
The first of the two buildings, a 19-floor apartment housing 90 flats was brought down in just over 5.4 seconds while the second one, the 16-floors high was demolished just minutes later, amidst a massive cloud of dust, with hundreds of people gathered to watch the unprecedented scenes.
Tight security arrangements had been made for the demolition which will take place in a phased manner over the weekend. Section 144 has been imposed to ensure no public gathering or movement hinders the process. Water and electricity supply to the apartments had been cut off. People living in a 200-metre radius had been evacuated and the area had been marked a no-fly zone.
Over 800 police personnel were deployed to control the crowd. Safety of the oil pipes, drinking water lines and power lines in the vicinity had been protected. Rapid response teams were present at the site along with paramedics. Four ambulances and eight fire tenders were on standby at the location of demolition. Coastal police were manning the water body adjoining the apartment.
Trouble started for the apartment complexes around 13 years ago when show-cause notices were issued to five builders for violation of the Coastal Regulation Zone norms. The builders moved Kerala high court against the notices. The Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority appealed with a review petition in front of the Division Bench of Kerala HC.
On May 8th, the Supreme Court ordered the demolition of the apartments and the review petitions filed by the residents were rejected. The Kerala Chief Secretary was pulled up by the SC and a timeline of September was submitted. Despite massive protests by residents, a compensation of Rs 25 lakhs was fixed for each unit. The luxury apartment cost between Rs 70 lakhs to Rs 1.5 crores. The buildings are situated very close to the backwaters and extensive care was taken to ensure the debris does not fall into the water body. Massive metal nets covered the buildings to hold the large chunks of concrete blocks from falling into the backwater. The nearby buildings and the Kundannoor bridge will not be impacted as the vibrations will be absorbed by the marshland. On Sunday, two more complexes will be brought down employing the controlled implosion method.