How many apartment complexes should be demolished in Maradu municipality in Kerala in the wake of recent Supreme Court verdict?
It is five, going by the state government-constituted technical committee report, which the court relied to assess the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) violations before delivering the landmark judgement.
But Maradu municipality officials insist that they have to demolish only four.
Reason: One of the five apartment complexes does not exist at all.
On September 6, the court issued an ultimatum to the Kerala government that structures built in Maradu - which lies on the banks of Vembanadu Lake - violating Coastal Regulation Zone rules should be demolished latest by September 20. The court talked tough after it noted that Kerala state government had not complied with its previous demolition order, which was issued in May this year.
Since then, reports suggested that the government should demolish five plush, water-front apartment complexes, viz Alfa Serene, Golden Kayaloram, Jains Coral Cove, Holy Faith H2O and Holiday Heritage.
The 16-storey Alpha Serene and twin towers of the 18-storey Holy Faith H2O stand tall on either side of the quite flowing Kundannoor River. Golden Kayaloram, the 16-storey structure in Kannadikkadavu, faces the Champakkara Canal. Jains Coral Cove in Kettezhuthin Kadavu, another 16-floor structure, lies close to the Nittoor Canal.
However, no construction has happened at the site marked for Holiday Heritage apartment complex. Lying on the banks of Nittoor Canal, the property appears to be unattended for a long time. Creepers on the locked gates hinder the view of the site partially covered with grass. Silhouette of Chinese nets fixed on the canal can be seen on the other end.
"As per the Supreme Court directive, we have to demolish only four apartment complexes," said Maradu municipal secretary K Mohammed Arif Khan. "There is no such building called Holiday Heritage in Maradu, though the builder had obtained construction permit several years ago," he said.
The Alpha Serene has two towers - Tower A and B inside the same premises - but the municipality counts it as a single unit. "It is a single apartment complex built by one builder, so we consider it as one unit," he said.
Holiday Heritage's appeal to technical committee
While delivering its verdict, the Supreme Court solely focussed the Coastal Regulation Zone violations.
All gram panchayats in Kerala come under CRZ-III category. These are relatively undisturbed rural areas. Only controlled construction activities are allowed here. Maradu was a panchayat when the building permits were issued. It became a municipality in 2010.
Builders, however, argued that Maradu was a fast-developing town, bordering the Kochi Corporation. Hence it falls under CRZ-II category, making building construction relatively hassle-free.
The Supreme Court had appointed a three-member committee to study the issue. The panel relied on the report of a technical committee, constituted by the government, which found that all the five apartment complexes were constructed in areas that fall under CRZ-III category.
The technical panel had heard the builders' concerns before preparing its report.
Holiday Heritage too presented its arguments on January 28, 2019.
The builder insisted that Maradu municipality is a "designated urban area, with its well developed nature, will come within CRZ-II, though the area is categorised mistakenly under I and II," read the technical committee report.
"Under Clause VI (2) norms for regulations of construction and development activities, construction of buildings under CRZ-II category is permitted by the side of existing authorised structures (building line) and in compliance of the Building Rules and Regulations...Considering the above facts, the firm requested to reinstate their revoked building permit No. A-1(2) 503/06-07 dated 20.01.2007," it read.
By presenting its argument before the panel, Holiday Heritage made it clear that it is keen to resume the project despite being inactive for 12 years.
However, the municipal secretary said it is impossible for Holiday Heritage to continue the project. "With the Supreme Court verdict, the builder's permit would be automatically cancelled," he said.
Onmanorama is trying to get reaction from the builder. This story will be updated as an when we get it.