Kochi flat demolition: Environmentalists smell rat

Explosives being carried to one of the five high-rises at Kochi in Kerala to be demolished on January 11 and 12. (DH Photo)

With only days left for the demolition of the five waterfront high-rises in Kochi, environmentalists have raised serious concerns over the pollution it could cause to the backwaters.

They even suspect a ploy to sabotage a safe demolition of the high-rises so as to avoid demolition of any more high-rises in the state, especially since hundreds of high-rises were already found to be constructed flouting norms

All the five high-rises in Kochi, to be demolished on January 11 and 12, are situated on the banks of Kochi backwaters, which is part of the Vembanad lake - a Ramsar site in India. A government agency had recently found 625 buildings flouting CRZ norms around Vembanad lake alone.

Environmentalists said that there was no doubt that the debris of the five high-rises would fall into the backwaters unless adequate protection was taken. Noted environmental activist C R Neelakantan said that the very spirit of the SC order to demolish the high-rises for flouting CRZ norms would be lost if the demolitions would lead to damage to the ecosystem of the backwaters. He said that the authorities were not able to give any convincing explanation on how the backwaters would be protected during demolition. "We are only getting vague replies from the authorities that the debris would not fall into the backwaters," he said.

Abhilash, a resident near Alfa Serene twin towers to be demolished, said that even though the authorities were initially stating that the demolitions would not pose any safety issues, it seems even they were now unsure of the extent of impact as they were not giving any firm assurances regarding the damage it would cause to the nearby houses as well as the backwaters.

Environmentalists suspect that the lackadaisical approach of authorities towards the local people's safety concerns and environmental impacts could be even part of a ploy to plug any further demolition of high-rises in Kerala.

Mr Neelakantan said that many more illegal high-rises in Kerala were now under judicial review and hence may suffer demolition orders in future. Hence if the demolition of the five high-rises caused severe damages, there would be strong public ire against any future demolition orders of high-rises. "We strongly suspect such a ploy owing to the strong nexus of the builders' and owners of luxury apartments with the political leadership," he said.

Officials were unavailable to given comments on these concerns.

An earlier report of a team from IIT Madras on the demolition of these waterfront high-rises had p

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