Kochi: Four illegally-built flat complexes in Maradu municipality of Kerala's Ernakulam district are all set to be razed within weeks but people getting shivers down the spine are not these apartment owners but the neighbours.
As the process for demolition is fast progressing, those living near the four buildings fear that they too may lose their homes. Several houses in the vicinity of the complexes have developed cracks. Besides, dust from the demolition site is causing pulmonary ailments, forcing the neighbourhood residents to find alternative shelters.
The Supreme Court had ordered demolition of the four flat complexes which were built by violating the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms. The SC also ordered to give an interim compensation of Rs 25 lakh to each owner.
The government had promised to insure the houses in the danger zone (a radius of 50 metres from the four buildings), but there is no clarity on this yet. Authorities said that talks with a public sector insurance company are still in progress.
Cracks have been found in four houses near the Alfa Serene twin towers, which are scheduled to be brought down first. While there is a huge crack on the staircase to the house of Hari, who lives close to Alfa Serene, several cracks have been spotted on the walls of Aji Kaniyampilli's home also. The other houses where cracks have been spotted belong to Sreedevi Pradeep, Karottu House, and Yamuna Jacob, Nedumparambil.
Hari's brother Sai, along with his family, shifted to a rented house recently as they were unable to stand the dust. Hari, an online cab driver, is also planning to find a rented house. The bricks and concrete pieces lying on the frontyard of Hari's house prove the danger lurking on their head.
The bricks fell into the yard when workers were demolishing the walls of the building. They have erected a wall of aluminium sheets over the building after Hari and others complained.
There are 14 houses close to the outer walls of Alfa Serene and a total of 42 houses within 50-metre radius.
The residents have formed a Jagratha Samiti (vigilant committee) to raise their complaints before the authorities. Shaji, coordinator of the Samiti, blamed the unscientific methods being used by the company, Vijay Steels, entrusted with the task of demolishing Alfa Serene flats, for the sufferings of the neighbourhood people.
“There are advanced technologies for demolishing buildings, but this company is mostly relying on manual labour. The walls are demolished by workers using hammers. We suspect the company is not qualified to carry out such a work,” Shaji said.
Aji said cracks started developing on the walls of his house after the walls of a swimming pool were demolished using earth-movers inside the Alfa Serene complex.
“Everyday I spot a new crack on the walls. We don't know how long the structure would survive after the demolition of the flats,” he said.
Neighbours of H2O also worried
Cracks have been spotted on the walls of a few buildings near Holy Faith H2O apartments at Kundannoor also. Edifice Engineering is entrusted with the task of demolishing this building. Around 60 people were at work in the building when Onmanorama visited the site on Tuesday.
Cracks have been found on houses of Raju, Antony and Babu Joseph. They all belong to the Nedumparambil family. Walls of Whitewood Godown, owned by Ilanjimattom Ambrose, have also developed cracks. The godown and the house of Babu Joseph are within 10 metres from the outer wall of the flat complex.
Cicily, wife of Antony, said dust from the demolition site has been causing severe health issues for the people around the building. “We are not even able to dry our clothes outside. They get covered in dust as soon as we put them on the terrace,” she said. Similar worries were shared by others in the neighbourhood.
There is no clarity as to the insurance promised by the government yet. “We have not been given any documents related to it,” said Hari and Aji living close to Alfa Serene.
Municipality authorities have videographed the houses within 50 metres from the flats as a first step of insuring them.
Sub Collector Snehil Kumar, who is in charge of the demolition operations, said that the state government will bear the expenses of the premium to be paid.
"Discussions with a public sector insurance firm are in the final stage," he told media on Tuesday. The insurance will be for a period of one year starting January 11.
Snehil Kumar said the companies carrying out the demolition have to rectify the damage incurred to the houses before the insurance validity starts.
Maradu municipality chairperson T H Nadeera said talks were on with the insurance firm. “The company is ready to insure the houses for three months from the date of demolition. However, we want a period of one year because we want to see what will happen to the houses during the rainy season after the demolition. Talks are on with the company and a decision will be taken at the earliest,” she said.
She said the insurance amount will be fixed on the value of the houses videographed.
As of the current schedule, the flats will be brought to ground on January 11 and 12. People living within 200 metres of the flats will be evacuated six hours before the demolition.