Resilience and determination of a retired soldier to save the lives of 256 families from two crumbling apartment buildings constructed by Army Welfare Housing Organisation (AWHO) in Kochi, Kerala, have finally yielded results with two government bodies recommending urgent action that includes the immediate evacuation of residents to protect their lives.
A technical team of Thripunithura Municipality and the Greater Cochin Development Authority (GCDA), which conducted a technical evaluation of the two apartment buildings – Tower B and C, has now unanimously recommended immediate evacuation of the families from the buildings for their safety. The buildings, ‘Chanderkunj’ towers constructed by AWHO on Silver Sand Island, Vyttila, once considered a symbol of security and comfort for its occupants, has now become a looming threat to the safety of over 256 families residing within its walls.
The retired soldiers, who had served their nation with valour, found themselves in a predicament when they witnessed their apartment, bought with their hard-earned money, started to crumble part by part because of low-quality construction marred by corruption. The apartment buildings were handed over to the occupants after completion of works in 2018.
Though the fight against the poor quality construction was started by retired soldier Colonel Ciby George, 56, a civil engineer who served in the engineering division of the Army for over 30 years, other retired soldiers who bought the apartment, soon joined him realising the gravity of the situation. Col Ciby George could also convince a local court in Kochi about the poor construction of the building and get a favourable direction from the court based on which Kochi city police registered a case and launched a probe.
It was based on their repeated pleas highlighting concern for the safety of the residents that the two government bodies conducted thorough inspections of the building and confirmed the grim reality: the structural integrity of the apartment has been compromised to such an extent that it could collapse at any moment. The findings have now prompted an immediate directive for the evacuation of all residents to prevent potential disaster.
“Our concerted efforts to open the eyes of the authorities concerned have finally yielded results. The government departments have officially acknowledged the unsafe condition of the buildings in which we live in constant fear of collapse. The entire project is mired in irregularities, and we want a detailed investigation by a central agency to bring out the truth and book the culprits,” Colonel Ciby George told “Open Digest“.
Colonel C M Unnithan, another owner of an apartment, who is fighting for justice, said the three reports now confirm the horrifying reality that the five-year-old buildings are on the verge of collapse because of unscientific and low-quality construction.
According to the report submitted by the Assistant Executive Engineer of the Thripunithura Municipality, following a directive from the Deputy Collector, the condition of the building is deemed irreparable, necessitating the immediate evacuation of its inhabitants. The report submitted by the civil engineering wing of GCDA has also recommended immediate evacuation of all the residents from Towers B and C.
An independent study conducted by an expert from IIT, Chennai, also strongly recommended “(a) Immediate removal of all the partially de-bonded vertical granite panels above the elevator doors and all loose concrete from the staircase elements. These are severe falling hazards and a serious threat to the lives of the users, even during the proposed evacuation. (b) Immediate evacuation of all the residents from Towers B and C. (c) Immediate removal of all the remaining partially de-bonded vertical granite panels around the elevators.”