After guzzling up humongous amounts of natural resources such as sand, rock and water, over 11 lakh houses in the state are lying locked and vacant.
What is more shocking is the fact that the rate of growth of the number of houses is four times the rate of growth of the state’s population. As per the 2001 census, only 7.8 percent of the total houses were vacant. This has increased to 10.6 percent in 2011 census.
This disproportionate growth in the number of vacant houses has added strength to the call given by Green organisations for rationing of natural resources in the construction sector.
“The rate of population growth has been very small, with some districts like Pathanamthitta and Idukki showing a decline in the growth rate. The rate of growth in the number of vacant houses is totally disproportionate,” said A N Rajeev, deputy director of Census Operations, Kerala.
The rate of growth of population is less than five percent while the rate of growth of vacant census houses is 19.8 percent. Ernakulam district topped the list with 1,36, 722 vacant houses, of which over 1 lakh was in the urban sector and the rest in rural areas. This pattern of more vacant houses in urban sector than rural was noticed in Thrissur, Alappuzha, Kannur, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram.
In all other districts the reverse was true with more vacant houses in rural areas. “In districts like Idukki, apart from its inherent rural nature, closure of several tea estates contributes to the increase of vacant houses. Tea estates that were closed down in Udumbanchola and Devikulam left many staff quarters vacant,” explained Rajeev. Closing down of these tea estates also saw a mass migration of people to the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu too. Census officials say that a majority of vacant homes in cities are flats.
“Migration is a major factor, with most of the houses being owned by non-resident Indians. But we also cannot forget the fact that a good many have been constructed just for investment purpose,” said Rajeev.
Several Green groups have been asking for a rationing system so that the natural resources are given to the most needy.
“There has to be a system where priority has to be given to people with no houses at all. Right now, a person who is building his third or fourth house pays just the same amount for construction materials just as a poor person building his first. Natural resources will get depleted in no time if this does not change,” said R Sridhar, coordinator of Thanal.
It was just a few days ago that the Centre for Science and Environment released a press release that said that in India, buildings are responsible for 40 per cent of the energy use, 30 per cent of the raw material use, 20 per cent of water use, and 20 per cent of land use in cities. And also, they cause 40 per cent of the carbon emissions, 30 per cent of solid waste generation, and 20 per cent of water effluents.