Noida: A sign in red warns: ‘Danger– Blasting Area’. Beyond it are the towers in a shroud of fire-proof fabric. The irony is not lost on 5,000 residents living in shadows of the Noida skyscrapers set for demolition on August 28.
The official race against time began last week but inhabitants of ATS Village and Emerald Court started their own countdown on February 25 when 10 drillers showed up at the Noida towers that soar up to 103 metres.
Five days later, 250 workers rode in on heavy machinery to reduce the weight of the towers comprising 915 flats by 20 per cent. All hell broke loose in Emerald Court, nine metres from the towers, fashionably named Apex and Cayenne.
“It became a warzone,” said a guard as concrete rained down like artillery shells, prompting Emerald Court’s RWA to compel residents and their visitors to use the fetid basements.
The work frenzy robbed the peace of residents of 1,100 flats of ATS Village and Emerald Court, which faced the brunt as the monstrous towers which menaces three of its apartment blocks.
It got worse. Flats shook and dust choked homes as the wreckers deployed even larger machines.
Aarya Sahni, a student of fashion designing, had never seen such disruption in the 21 years of her tender life. “I hate the smell of the basement. It’s just too much,” said the woman with roots in sylvan Jharkhand, craving for a whiff of fresh air. “Whenever I have to leave home I have to go through the basement first.”
The towers built illegally were marked for destruction by the apex court in August last year in a warning to greedy builders and bureaucrats.
Vishesh Kumar, a 45-year-old security guard, was dislodged from his post in the open lobby of Aster-2 — the most threatened block — and posted to the basement for his own safety.
“It feels strange sitting in the basement. I feel suffocated. There is no oxygen but it feels very uncomfortable. We don’t know when it is day or when it is night,” Kumar shared with IANS as some saw a link between residents scurrying in the basements to the thousands living underground in under-attack Ukraine.
“You can taste a slice of Ukraine out here,” wryly quipped a war veteran.
Inderjit Kaur, a businesswoman, who has seen Apex and Cayenne rise from scratch 11 years ago, lives closest to the towers that will crash within meters of her three-bedroom apartment with French windows.
“From that day when the digging started, I dealt with the dust. And now, this,” she told IANS.
“I had plants worth over Rs 1,000, they all died because of the covers,” she added of the billowing curtains of geotextile fabric and nettings strung up to prevent accidents.
Kaur and some others complained delivery men were refusing to come to the barricaded blocks and students said they faced the brunt of the noise and dust.
Rashmi Singh, a housewife, seemed to shudder at the prospect of evacuating her home on the day of the demolition.
But there was heart-warming news too.
Three unaffected societies have opened their hearts and doors for ATS Village and Emerald Court residents on August 28 when thousands will be homeless for nine hours.