Rare message from right ruling

Rare message from right ruling

A view of Golden Kayaloram apartment, built in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone norms in Maradu Municipality, being demolished using controlled implosion, in Kochi. (PTI Photo)

The demolition of four high-rise luxury apartments, one of them rising to 20 floors in a crowded urban locality of Kochi in Kerala, should send out the rare message that violation of building and environmental laws will not always go unpunished. The apartment complexes, housing 340 flats, commanded a market price of over Rs 200 crore. The demolition of such tall buildings has not been undertaken in the country in the past.  It was ordered by the Supreme Court which took a very strict and unsympathetic, and correct, view of the violation of laws and the damage the constructions have done to the backwaters and their shore where the apartments were located. They were constructed as early as 2006 after irregularly securing approvals from the local government authorities. Now it is clear that a nexus of builders, officials and politicians facilitated the illegal constructions, bending and ignoring laws and guidelines. 

The vast backwaters near the high-rise complexes are ecologically sensitive and contain rich biodiversity. The health of the wetlands is important for the life of the residents of Kochi city and lakhs of others who live in areas on the shores of the lake. The constructions were done in the restricted zone under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) regulations. The buildings prevented the natural flow of water, caused floods and adversely affected marine and coastal life forms. So the demolitions were in the larger interests of the residents and the environment, though it was the owners of the apartments who had to pay a very high price. They had spent Rs 60-70 lakh and even above Rs 1 crore on a flat, and had lived there for many years. Some compensation has been paid but that will not make up for the financial loss, mental stress and disruption of life. The builders and some officials have been arrested on the court’s orders but no politician has yet been booked. The state government has spent about Rs 60 crore till now for compensation and demolition. It has to collect this from the builders. Debris of about 75,000 tonnes of concrete and steel has also to be safely disposed of. 

All this should serve as a warning to those who perpetrate and collude in the violation of building laws. Unfortunately, it is the buyer who ultimately has to pay the highest price, and that underlines the need for extreme care and diligence in buying property. Illegal constructions exist in every city in the country. Actions like those in Kochi are needed to remind everyone of the need to respect the laws. The Supreme Court cannot ensure compliance with the law and penalty for violations everywhere. 

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