Nine years after a residents association went to court over the illegally built Supertech twin towers, a series of controlled explosions reduced the 100-metre tall structures to a huge pile of rubble -– watched by thousands from surrounding rooftops and lakhs on live television.
Apex (32 storeys) and Ceyane (29 storeys) were gone in 12 seconds on Sunday, in the carefully choreographed and meticulously executed demolition, the biggest such exercise in the country so far.
"It felt like structures of corruption were coming down," said Purshotam Mishra, who had waited two hours for the spectacle to begin.
The Supreme Court ordered the demolition a year back, saying there had been “collusion” between the builders and Noida Authority officials who let Supertech Ltd construct in the area where no buildings were to come up according to the original plans.
The builders paid for the demolition, which cost about Rs 20 crore.
According to the company, their overall loss is around Rs 500 crore.
That includes land, construction and interest costs.
Many people travelled to Noida hours ahead of what could be a once-in-a-lifetime sight, as 3,700 kilos of explosives bored into the pillars and walls of the two residential buildings went off in quick succession.
Just after 2.30 pm, the floors of the twin towers collapsed onto each other in a stack that then sat amid other complexes in sector 93A in Noida, an Uttar Pradesh city that adjoins New Delhi.
As the doomed buildings went down, a cloud of dust rose obscuring the doomed towers' very final moments.
A group of people gathered in the open cheered and clapped. "It was worth it," Ashish Suman, who had come from Delhi's Uttam Nagar, said.
"It was all over the news for several days. Finally it is over. It sends a strong message to all that corruption won't be accepted in India," he said.
About 5,000 people from the adjoining Emerald Court and ATS Village societies had left their homes hours before the demolition under the evacuation plan.
Nearly 3,000 vehicles and about 200 pets were also taken out of harm's way for the next several hours.
The dust settled in a few minutes. Officials reported cracked windows and a broken boundary wall, but apparently no significant structural damage to the high-rises next to the demolished towers.
The closest residential complex was just nine metres away and the residents had complained that the illegal towers blocked their view.
A team from Edifice Engineering and South Africa's Jet Demolitions – the two companies that carried out the challenging task – the Central Building Research Institute (CBRI) and the Noida Authority began a structural audit of the adjoining buildings.
After 7 pm, residents started returning home. Power and cooking gas lines were reconnected. In the afternoon, a 27-km stretch of the Noida-Greater Noida expressway was closed to traffic for about 30 minutes.
Water sprinklers and anti-smog guns were activated at the site soon after the demolition to help contain the dust, an official said.
Officials said the demolition conducted by the “waterfall implosion” technique left an estimated 35,000 cubic metres or 55,000 tonnes to 80,000 tonnes of debris, including concrete rubble, steel and iron bars. which officials said would be cleared within three months.
The Supreme Court had ordered the demolition on August 31, 2021, upholding a verdict by the Allahabad high court.
It held that illegal construction has to be dealt with strictly to ensure compliance with the rule of law.
"The case has revealed a nefarious complicity of the planning authority in the violation by the developer of the provisions of law," the top court had observed.
But some disagreed with the drastic measure.
“What a waste of resources! Let's not even talk about the environmental hazards! Wish the whole mess was handled in a better manner!” PreScribbles wrote on Twitter, ahead of the demolition.
Some who have booked their flats in other parts of the National Capital Region too were worried.
"At least in this case the Supreme Court has ordered refund. What about other projects where the builder has defaulted? No justice for them. It is very frustrating,” said Arun Mishra, who claimed that Supertech is already behind by about four years in his case.
The Noida Authority, which had approved the Supertech building maps, oversaw the mega demolition exercise.
Now gone, the towers built under Supertech's Emerald Court project were to have 40 floors each with 21 shops and 915 residential apartments altogether -- and a fascinating view of the city.
Their current market value would have been around Rs 700 crore, it is estimated.
Edifice Engineering and South Africa's Jet Demolitions got the demolition assignment.
The CBRI was appointed by the Supreme Court as the technical expert.
In India, high-rise buildings have been demolished only once earlier through controlled explosions.
In Maradu municipality area of Kochi, Kerala, four 18 to 20-storey buildings were razed in 2020 for violating Coastal Regulation Zone norms.
Edifice and Jet Demolitions had collaborated then as well.
Jet also brought down the 108-metre-tall Bank of Lisbon building in Johannesburg, South Africa, in November 2019.
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