A day after the demolition of four illegal waterfront apartment complexes was completed in Kochi, local residents on Monday staged protests at the municipality headquarters alleging that they could not go back to their houses as dust caused by the drive was causing health issues.
Demanding frequent spraying of water in the area to control the dust, the residents, living in the surroundings of Holy Faith H2O, one of the apartment complexes which was brought down on Saturday, staged a sit-in at the office of the municipality chairperson TH Nadeera.
The protesters, mainly women, complained that they were finding it difficult to breathe properly, were unable to use their well water, besides children and elders in the family had complained of uneasiness and respiratory issues due to the dust.
The residents wanted municipality authorities to immediately take action to deploy fire force personnel to spray water frequently in the area to bring the dust under control.
As the four apartments complexes were brought down in the last two days, a thick plume of dust had enveloped the area surrounding the demolished structures.
Even several hours after the exercise, there was heavy presence of concrete dust particles in the atmosphere and the authorities were doing nothing to bring it under control, they alleged.
According to figures, over 75,000 tonnes of concrete waste was generated after the demolition of illegal structures ordered by the Supreme Court for Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) violation.
In perhaps the first such drive in the country against illegal residential high rises, the four concrete colossuses housing nearly 350 flats were reduced to piles of rubble in seconds one after the other in the last two days.
"Authorities told us that we could go back to our houses five hours after the demolition. They also promised that fire force personnel would spray water at frequent intervals in the area so that dust
would not cause any issue for us," one of the protesting women
Another woman said her little son had complained of uneasiness and had to be taken to the hospital on Sunday night.
"We cannot breathe properly due to the thick concrete dust. Experts had already warned that it would cause respiratory and skin diseases. Why should we suffer all these?" the angry woman asked.
However, Nadeera, the chairperson, assured them that the municipality would coordinate with the district administration and take all possible steps soon to address the concerns of the local people.
Explosives, weighing nearly 750 kg, were used in a controlled manner to bring down the lakeside structures at Maradu, eight months after the top court ordered their demolition for violation of the CRZ norms.
On May 8 last year, the top court had directed that these buildings be removed within a month as they were constructed in a notified CRZ, which was part of the tidally-influenced water body in Kerala.