Following the Supreme Court order to demolish four apartments constructed in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms at Maradu, the Kerala government has started a statewide exercise to look into all constructions which don’t comply with CRZ norms.
While ordering demolition of the apartments, the court had directed Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA) to put on record how many such constructions existed and what course of action it proposed against such violators.
According to Additional Chief Secretary (local self-government) T K Jose, the exercise to identify CRZ violations is on. “We do not have clear data on CRZ violations across Kerala. We have to examine the entire coast and areas covered by backwaters.’’
He said 800 CRZ violations are suspected in Maradu municipality. “An examination of 325 buildings has revealed that only eight buildings violated norms. These eight are besides the four complexes (which the Supreme Court has ordered to be demolished). Now, we have to examine 475 more constructions in Maradu municipality to ascertain if they violated CRZ norms. The exercise is being carried out by KCZMA,’’ he said.
Officials at KCZMA said the authority does not have statewide data on constructions which violated CRZ norms. “When the authority was under science and technology department, until 2017, an examination had revealed 65 violations by resorts and apartments across Kerala. This list was prepared to answer a question in Rajya Sabha. Then the officials looked only at constructions which faced complaints or landed in court cases for alleged violations. We are yet to have a full-fledged examination,’’ an official said.
The delay in constituting the KCZMA board has also hampered identification of CRZ violations. The board’s term expired in June and the state government sent a proposal for the new board to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest. “The state government has sent the proposal. But the Union Ministry has to issue the notification to the effect of forming the new board. Currently, officials are conducting only a preliminary examination,’’ a source said.
Meanwhile, with the Supreme Court set to review action taken to demolish the apartments, the state government has toughened its stand. On Thursday, power and water supply to the four complexes, which have 343 units, were snapped. The move is part of a four-month action plan to demolish the apartments.
As per the action plan, the government wants residents to vacate the flats between September 29 and October 3. The agency for the demolition would be identified before October 9 and the first phase is slated to begin on October 11.
Ernakulam district collector S Suhas said the residents should cooperate during the process. “They should cooperate to shift out the children and the indisposed. There won’t be a situation in which flat residents are rendered homeless. Alternative arrangements for rehabilitating them would be made,’’ he said.
However, the residents are determined not to move out. With the power and water supplies cut, they switched to standby power systems and arranged water tankers.
“We are being treated like terrorists. We are pleading with the government and Supreme Court to be humane. We invested our hard-earned money in these apartments. We cannot suffer these flats being razed. Several aged, indisposed and children are living here. Many are taking treatment at nearby hospitals on a daily basis. Does anyone think about their fate?’’ asked Sajitha Pillai, one of the residents.
Another resident Arun Kumar said, “We are ready to die under the debris of this flats. The Supreme Court linked the issue to last year’s flood. But, nobody knows these flats had then offered shelter to the flood-affected.”