Kochi: From the Kundannoor-Thevara Bridge on the outskirts of Kochi, you cannot miss the beautiful skyscrapers of Maradu. They dominate the skyline along the shoreline of the Vembanad lake punctuated by verdant groves. The bridge serves as a vantage point for hundreds of people, some from out of town, who have come to see the high-rises.
Of particular interest to these onlookers are four towers: Alfa Serene, Holy Faith H2O, Jains Coral Cave and Golden Kayaloram. They are to be demolished by order of the Supreme Court which ruled that they are in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules.
Alfa Serene and Holy Faith H2O will be felled on Saturday January 11 and Jains Coral Cave and Golden Kayaloram the next day. They are among the tallest structures to be brought down by controlled implosion in India. The demolition tourists on the bridge think it’s gonna be quite a sight.
M Radhakrishnan, a trader from Chalakudy in Thrissur district, came to Kochi to make some purchases, and decided he must see what everyone is talking about. “This is the first time I am seeing these structures. Everyone is curious because the Maradu buildings are the most debated issue in the newspapers these days,” he said.
It’s going to be a demolition derby. The authorities expect more than 10,000 people to turn up to watch the buildings crumble, and have made arrangements. They can watch from no closer than 200 m. Police and Fire and Rescue personnel have been busy securing the perimeter. People are being evicted from within a 2 km radius of the flats. Section 144 of the CrPC will be in force within a 200 m radius of the buildings from 9 am Saturday until the authorities issue a green signal for people to return.
The demolition sites and nearby buildings have been covered up to limit dust pollution.
It’s a big challenge: demolition agencies
For the two agencies contracted to do the job it is a huge challenge. Mumbai-based Edifice Engineering will carry out the demolition of
Jains Coral Cave, Golden Kayaloram and Holy Faith H2O; and Chennai-based Vijay Steels and Explosives will bring down Alfa Serene. The total cost of the four demolitions is estimated at Rs 2.32 crore.
At an average of 60 m and 17-19 storeys high, the towers are among the tallest structures to be imploded in India. Plus, they are all water-front properties, barely a stone’s throw from the ecologically sensitive Vembanad lake. Being not very old, they all have strong pilings and therefore deep foundations.
According to S.B. Sarwate, a Bhopal-based implosion expert appointed to monitor the demolition, the impact of the implosions will be within 100 m of the site. But then, there are several houses and a government school within 10-12 m of the apartment complexes.
Understandably, people living next door are worried about the impact on their houses, as are fishermen about debris falling into the Vembanad. The assurances given by the administration and the demolition companies are not entirely convincing to them.
Some of the residents in the neighbourhood have had to shift after cracks developed on their walls due to preparatory dismantling of parking areas and swimming pools. A comprehensive insurance scheme worth Rs 125 crore, with a validity of one year, has been announced to assuage them.
A controlled implosion is a quick sequence of explosions designed to limit the fallout. It is carried out according to a strict protocol.
1. Preparatory to the implosion, pre-blasting is undertaken to remove structures such as parking lots and swimming pools.
2. Interiors walls are torn down.
3. Cartridges of explosives are studded into holes made into the pillars and outer walls on each floor. Each cartridge is fitted with 125 grams emulsion explosives with ammonium nitrate. It would take more than 1600 kg of explosives to bring down the four towers.
4. Cartridges are connected with a detonating fuse and a non-electrical detonator. These are in turn connected with electric detonators that will determine the time of explosion on each floor.
5. The exploder switch is set up at initiation points within a 100 m radius of each building.
6. There will be many explosions within gap of micro seconds.
7. Sirens will be sounded.
8. Boom: The first blast will go off inside Alfa Serene at 11.30 am Saturday....