Patricia Green | Development lessons from India
“We shall only demolish if the court instructs us to do so,” responded Mayor of Kingston and St Andrew Delroy Williams to my question posed at the Citizens-Rights-to-the-City meeting held with the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC...
“We shall only demolish if the court instructs us to do so,” responded Mayor of Kingston and St Andrew Delroy Williams to my question posed at the Citizens-Rights-to-the-City meeting held with the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) on April 27.
Meanwhile, in Noida, a satellite town near India’s capital New Delhi, at 2.30 p.m. local time on August 28, over 900 apartments of the nearly 100 metres-tall twin-towers Apex and Ceyane were demolished by implosion. This fulfilled the Supreme Court of India’s order following 12 years of litigation by citizens.
The question that needs to be answered is what fate awaits the various St Andrew, Jamaica, developments receiving judiciary review and stop orders as reported in the media? Citizens have expressed frustration with public bodies, including the KSAMC and the National Environmental Planning Agency/National Resource and Conservation Authority – #18 Upper Montrose Road, Kingston 6; #17 Birdsucker Drive, Kingston 8; #10 Roseberry Drive, Kingston 8; #29 Dillsbury Avenue, Kingston 6; #9 Evans Avenue, Kingston 8; Chancery Close, Kingston 8. Neighbourhoods of Drumblair, Halifax Avenue and Kings Drive, Havendale, Meadowbrook, Mona Heights, Salisbury Avenue, Sandhurst Crescent, and others have stop orders in force and/or pending for a number of developments there.
The Supreme Court of India ruling over Apex and Ceyane ensured that the home buyers of the twin towers who are covered by the judgment received refund of their outstanding dues, respecting a batch of contempt petitions filed by home buyers seeking a refund by order of the court. Compensation is being guided by the precedence outcome of a previous demolition in January 2020 of four apartment complexes in Maradu in the southern Indian state of Kerala. There, demolition complied with court orders that ruled that some structures there were illegal because they violated the Coastal Regulation Zone. The development comprised housing of a total of 343 units razed to the ground using the implosion method, leaving behind 35,000 cubic metres of debris and a cloud of dust especially, also following demolition of the minor structures inside the complex undertaken with excavators.
Compensation precedence include, firstly, to secure legal assurances from the authorities before any demolition to ensure safety of their own building property adjacent and/or near the demolition site. Second, to ensure that the central/state government does everything to involve the municipality during the process. The citizens found that without this integrated governmental approach, they were facing a compensation problem of their adjacent properties that were damaged and/or negatively affected during the demolition process. Citizens found that the municipality was ready to pay the compensation to affected residents, however, they were awaiting the central/state government’s approval for this.
The New Indian Express newspaper in a series of articles all dated August 28 reported the property consultant of the Apex and Ceyane towers as saying, “… we constructed these towers as per the building plan approved by the Noida Development Authority…”. This statement, and the timeline scenario surrounding the Apex and Ceyane towers, ring as a familiar refrain of the current Jamaica residential development landscape.
In 2004, the developer receives land allotment to start work on a housing project called ‘Emerald Court’. In 2005, the developer receives approval to erect 14 residential towers, each 10 floors, and commences Emerald Court. In 2006, the developer seeks additional lands and receives approval for this including an amendment to accommodate more residential towers, increasing these from 10 to 15. In 2009, while about 40-50 residents were living in Emerald Court, the developer gets building plan revised again and adds two more towers – Apex and Ceyane. Some residents objected, citing violation of building norms. In 2012, the developer gets approval to extend to 40 storeys the proposed Apex and Ceyane towers when Emerald Court residents association entered court action for (a) lack of residents’ consent for new Apex and Ceyane towers within same housing complex; (b) violation of rules, including a minimum 16-metre distance between buildings; and (c) proposed new construction of Apex and Ceyane towers being placed in area marked for green space. In 2014, the developer moved to the Supreme Court to seek relief and states all approvals taken, however, the court (a) orders demolition of Apex and Ceyane towers; (b) admonishes the Authority for collusion with the developer; (c) stops construction work at site. On August 31, 2021, the Supreme Court orders demolition within three months, observing violation of building norms in collusion with local officials, remarking that “... illegal construction has to be dealt with strictly to ensure compliance with the rule of law … ”, reported The New Indian Express. If permitted, the demolished Apex and Ceyane towers would have added 915 more flats and 21 shops within the same housing complex and that, too, in violation of building norms …”.
The Authority informed the court in February 2022 that demolition would take place in May, however, the court extended the demolition deadline to August 28. The final evacuation clearance came around 12.30 p.m,. and the demolition took place at 2.30 p.m. inside a demolition exclusion zone of roughly 500 metres from the twin towers that Sunday. Both the Apex (32 storeys) and Ceyane (29 storeys) under construction were imploded in 12 seconds in what was described as a carefully choreographed and meticulously executed demolition. The New Indian Express headline said: “… India has joined 100-metre building demolition club: Foreign brain behind Noida twin tower success …”. Several window panes in Emerald Court, as well as ATS Village, were cracked, and the Authority had started the process to replace them with new ones shortly after inspection at the site Sunday evening.
In Indi,a the homebuyers’ body termed the demolition of the twin towers a huge victory for flat owners and that it also demolished the ego of builders and development authorities. The Forum for People’s Collective Efforts, an umbrella body of homebuyers that played an important role in enactment and implementation of real estate law, added that the responsibility of development authorities should have been fixed in this case. The national Realtors’ Apex body commented that most of the organised developers are adhering to all guidelines laid down by the authorities, and the demolition of the Apex and Ceyane towers will act as a good reminder for those who do not set a good precedent for the housing sector, serving as a deterrent for developers to violate building norms and laws, adding that the decision was symbolic of the new India, in which it is all about best practices, governance, and following the law.
What development parallels may be drawn or lessons learnt from India for Jamaica? Both countries got independence from Britain – India on August 15, 1947, and Jamaica on August 6, 1962.
Patricia Green, PhD, a registered architect and conservationist, is an independent scholar and advocate for the built and natural environment. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.