Kerala

Explained | The Maradu imbroglio of a SC order, flat owners, Kerala govt, and municipal authorities

Fate is sealed: Holy Faith apartments and Alpha Ventures at Maradu on the banks of Kochi backwaters.

Fate is sealed: Holy Faith apartments and Alpha Ventures at Maradu on the banks of Kochi backwaters.   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

The demolition of a group of apartments in Maradu municipality in Ernakulam district has been framed both as a tug of war between environmentalists and investors, and between two different arms of the government.

The case, which has been fought for over 13 years in multiple courts, is back in the limelight after the Supreme Court issued a directive to demolish the apartments, home to around 400 families, by September 20, 2019. Legal experts are not hopeful on the avenues to challenge this.

The foundation for the case was laid in 2006, when the Maradu Panchayat granted permission for the construction for five waterfront apartments — Holy Faith, Kayaloram, Alfa Ventures, Holiday Heritage and Jain Housing — overlooking the scenic Kochi backwaters.

All set: An official of the Maradu municipality pasting the eviction notice at Holy Faith apartments.

All set: An official of the Maradu municipality pasting the eviction notice at Holy Faith apartments.   | Photo Credit: H. Vibhu

 

The Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA), however, contested this, at which point the Panchayat issued a notice to the builders pointing out that the projects violated Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms. According to CRZ norms, no construction is permitted within 200 metres of the coast in the area.

The builders managed to get a stay on the case from the Kerala High Court in 2007 and the construction continued.

The next significant development in the case occurred in 2016, when the Kerala HC ruled against the KCZMA, and laid the blame for the situation squarely on Maradu Municipality’s shoulder.

This verdict was appealed in the Supreme Court, where KCZMA argued that the Panchayat had issued the permit without its concurrence.

In May 2019, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of KCZMA, noting that the construction activities were done on the shores of the backwaters which “supports exceptionally large biological diversity and constitutes one of the largest wetlands in India.” It stated that the Panchayat did not have the authority to grant permission for the construction without concurrence from KCZMA.

Seeking relief: Residents of the flats at Maradu protesting against the demolition order in Kochi on Wednesday. H. Vibhu

Seeking relief: Residents of the flats at Maradu protesting against the demolition order in Kochi on Wednesday. H. Vibhu  

 

The judgment comes at a time when there is heightened awareness and conversations on climate change and the exacerbating effect of human activities on it. The judges, citing the recent floods in Uttarakhand, Chennai and Kerala, said that uncontrolled construction activities in critically vulnerable coastal areas (classified as CRZ-III) would have devastating effects on the natural water flow.

Two key points mentioned by the builders and flat owners to defend their case is Maradu being upgraded to a Municipality and the Coastal Zone Management Plan that is used in the case.

The Coastal Zone Management Plan applicable in Kerala currently is the one approved in 1996, according to which Maradu is marked as Panchayat and hence falls in Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) category CRZ-III. Accordingly, the buildings situated within 200 meters from High Tide Line, which is a no-development zone, is illegal.

However, in November 2010, Maradu was upgraded to a Municipality.

Around the same time, a draft CZMP prepared in accordance with the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification of 2011 marked Maradu in the CRZ-II category.

Caught in between the distraught flat owners, who have been protesting the SC order, and an irate Supreme Court, the responsibility for demolition is being passed between the Maradu local body and the State government.

The Kerala government, meanwhile, has roped in the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras to develop a model for demolition of high-rises to assist in this.

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 11:46:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/explained-the-maradu-imbroglio-of-a-sc-order-flat-owners-kerala-govt-and-municipal-authorities/article29408277.ece

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