Collector orders to retrofit Kochi’s crumbling army flats in 10 months

Chander Kunj Army Towers at Silver Sand Island, Vyttila. Photo: Onmanorama

Kochi: The district collector of Ernakulam, NSK Umesh, has ordered the retrofit of the Chanderkunj Army Towers at Silver Sand Island at Vyttila in Kerala’s Kochi, which is under severe structural distress, within 10 months. The collector ordered that all the residents of the B and C towers of the residential complex should be evacuated under the supervision of the Army Welfare Housing Association (AWHO), which constructed the buildings for serving and retired army people. The AWHO should also arrange suitable accommodation for the evacuated residents during the period of the retrofitting works and bear the expenses for it.

The retrofitted buildings should be handed over to the responsible in 10 months. All the responsibilities of the buildings will be with the AWHO even after retrofitting, the collector said in the order dated March 29, 2024.

The collector issued the order based on the findings of a technical team which inspected the site as per his instruction. The joint inspection by the executive engineer, PWD (buildings); assistant executive engineer, Tripunithura Municipality, assistant executive engineer, Greater Cochin Development Authority, joint director PWD (regional design) was ordered based on a complaint filed by Col (retd) Ciby George, dated October 28, 2023. Col George owns one of the flats in severe distress and has been pursuing a legal fight against those who are responsible for the poor quality construction which has left many lives at risk.

Read: Falling concrete, taped granites: Army people’s Kochi flats crumble by the day

The report by the technical team has found that cracks have been developed at columns, beams and shear walls of the B and C towers and concrete has fallen off in various places. Rebars were found to be severely corroded. The report recommended immediate evacuation of the residents from the two towers as the technical team found that cracks were reappearing even in repaired places and they were extending to other parts of the buildings too.

Earlier, individual reports submitted by the engineers of Tripunithura municipality, GCDA and PWD (design) had made similar recommendations. An independent study conducted by a team from IIT-Madras and a private agency engaged by AWHO also found severe structural defects in the buildings.

The collector, according to his order, will assign a technical committee to inspect the buildings once the retrofitting is done.

Signs of poor construction started appearing in the 29-storey residential buildings soon after they were handed over to the owners in 2018.

The AWHO has repeatedly rejected the findings of the purported IIT report, calling it unauthorised. The organisation has been maintaining that it is ready to restore the buildings as soon as it gets permission from the Kerala High Court or civil administration. The AWHO has endorsed the findings in a very detailed report submitted by Bureau Veritas India Ltd, a private firm hired by it to assess the condition of the structures. The firm has reportedly made a plan to restore the building and extend its life by 30 years.

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