Home >News >India >Maradu case: SC judgement has a compelling message for environmental norms

New Delhi: Setting a precedent for environment regulations, the Supreme Court on Friday ordered the Kerala government to ensure compliance of its previous order for demolishing of high-rise apartments in Maradu in Kerala which were constructed in violation of coastal regulation zone (CRZ) norms.

As per the order dated September 26, the flats in coastal zone of Maradu in Kochi were to be demolished during the next 138 days, and each of the owners are to be provided 25 lakh each as interim compensation within four weeks. The money was to be recovered from builders and promoters.

The Court reprimanded the Kerala government for not complying with its orders for completely razing down the buildings yet, which it said was a "colossal loss" to the environment.

The order assumes significance especially in wake of the back-to-back floods that ravaged Kerala over the last two years. The state, rendered vulnerable due to its vast coastline and eco-sensitive Western Ghat region faced the worst floods of the century last year, triggering landslides leading to massive loss of life and property.

Apart from the human lives, the state's coastline and the ecological system has also become vulnerable.

The Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules notified by the Union Ministry of Environment were put into place to protect the fragile eco-sensitive systems near the coastlines from any proposed construction or industrial activities and prevent the coastline from eroding.

The four waterfront residential towers which are to be demolished are built in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ)-III, and the rules prohibit any construction activities in CRZ-III since they are closest to the coastline.

A major point of concern is that these buildings are nearly 200 metres from the tidally-influenced Vembanadu Lake, the largest lake in Kerala and probably one of the longest lakes in the country. The lake holds international significance, as it was declared a Ramsar site in 2006, under an inter-governmental environment treaty established by UNESCO under which conservation measures are taken in wetlands across countries.

The spate of unauthorized structures and buildings in the vulnerable coastal areas and wetlands has emerged as a major environmental concern, especially at a time when climate change and global warming has already threatened the existence of marine plant and animal species.

In most cases, owners are able to secure stays from the Court to protect these structures. However, by ordering the demolition in Maradu, the Court may just have set a precedent on how strictly the environment conservation measures are to be taken in the country.

(With inputs from Japnam K Bindra and M K Nidheesh)

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