By now, you would have seen the videos floating on social media. I’m talking about videos of a set of luxury lakeside apartment complexes in Kerala, India, imploding as a result of the controlled demolition that was carried out to fulfil an order by the country’s highest court. If you haven’t seen them, they’re worth checking out – just search Twitter with #MaraduBuildingsDemolition. In one of the largest demolition drives undertaken in the country, a total of 343 apartments were demolished over two days, displacing about 2,000 residents. No, they weren’t ‘poor’ residents – these were, after all, luxury apartments.
It was reportedly home to affluent bankers and retirees, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that hard-earned investments of these residents were razed to the ground in a matter of seconds. The problem was that the complexes were too close to the lake and were therefore in breach of environment norms. The apartment complexes, in the municipality of Maradu, were located in a critically vulnerable area where no new construction was allowed. Still fresh in mind is the 2018 flooding of Kerala, which the Supreme Court noted was a result of the environmental degradation and illegal construction on coastal zones.
So, ideally, these buildings shouldn’t have been built at all. But they were, thanks to corrupt officials who sanctioned their construction in breach of the norms. On top of that, it took over a decade of litigation for the Supreme Court to finally give its demolition verdict. On the one hand, justice was delivered, but there’s still a nagging doubt there. The buildings, illegal as they were, were already built, and the damage to the environment was done. Why accentuate that by demolishing them (check the videos to notice the amount of concrete and dust flying right next to the lake and, perhaps, into it) when they can be put to better use? Why not use them as orphanages or hospitals or, better still, environment museums with proceeds going to counter climate change? Why cut off your nose to spite your face? Why, pray, burn the house to smoke out a rat?