India to blow up illegal 'Twin Towers' in developer crackdown

A Supreme Court ruling last year found the structures were built unlawfully in collusion with local authorities. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NOIDA, India (AFP) - Two illegally built residential high-rises are slated for demolition near India's capital this weekend in a rare crackdown on developers who cut corners and swindle unsuspecting home-buyers.

A controlled implosion will bring down the 100-metre-high "Twin Towers" on New Delhi's outskirts after a Supreme Court ruling last year found the structures were built unlawfully in collusion with local authorities.

Thousands of anxious residents - along with dozens of stray dogs - are being evacuated from the vicinity, but the crew in charge of the knock-down said safety was assured.

"It's a beautiful feat of engineering," said demolition team leader Joe Brinkmann, according to the Times of India newspaper.

"Just pack your bags and enjoy the day."

The towers will be fitted with around 3,500kg of explosives and are expected to come down in a matter of seconds.

The world's fastest-growing major economy has seen a construction boom in recent years but developers often cut corners with impunity.

Eyeing fat profits and capitalising on weak regulation, companies often build extra floors or towers and use sub-standard materials, while officials are bribed to keep quiet.

Middle-class home-buyers fall into the trap of investing their life savings in projects that often never see the light of day, and get drawn into protracted legal battles against powerful builders.

In Delhi's suburbs of Noida and Greater Noida, it is estimated that more than 100 residential high-rise towers have been abandoned by the builders, making these areas look like ghost cities.

'Burning their fingers'

Uday Bhan Singh Teotia, one of a group of residents whose case against private developer Supertech led to the demolition order, said the destruction of the buildings will be a vindication of his legal battle.

"The two new towers that they constructed were blocking everything - our air and sunlight and all," Teotia, who lives close to the structures, told AFP.

No one had moved into the two towers before the demolition and Supertech was ordered by the court to refund buyers. The firm did not respond to calls from AFP.

Demolitions of residential buildings are rare in India, with builders often escaping with penalties or abandoning projects midway if they fall foul of the law.

Four luxury high-rises in southern Kerala state were demolished for breaking environmental rules in 2020.

Lawyer Jayant Bhushan, who represented the complainants in the case against Supertech, said builders must clean up their act to win back the trust of home-buyers.

"Unless builders follow rules, it will be hapless buyers who will end up burning their fingers again and again," he told AFP.

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