Govt wants to revive Delhi’s once popular amphitheatre

  • Bhadra Sinha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: May 18, 2016 16:23 IST
The Rabindra Rangshala is built on 37 acres in the Central Ridge, a protected forest. (Ravi Choudhary / HT Photo)

The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has suggested to the Supreme Court several “mitigating measures” to restore and restart the amphitheatre, Rabindra Rangshala, currently in ruins in the Central Ridge -- a protected forest area of the Capital.

Conceived and created by the Rabindranath Tagore Centenary Committee, headed by then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the structure was Delhi’s cultural hot spot for three decades. The open air theatre has been lying abandoned for the last two decades after the Centre declared the area a reserved forest in the mid-1990s.

But now the government wants to renovate it and turn it into a cultural hub of the capital. The ministry of culture has moved the SC for permission to start the restoration of Rabindra Rangashala, promising that no concrete structure will be set up.

The government said several schools and hospitals were running in the Upper Ridge area with the court’s permission.

In its environment impact assessment (EIA) report submitted to the court last week, the MoEF said: “The renovation will done as per the green norms. Adequate measures must be taken to follow the criteria.”

“Five per cent of the total project renovation cost will be allocated to monitor the air, noise and dust pollution and habitat enrichment. A framework will be made in consultation with the relevant department for implementation. Regular monitoring will be done,” the MoEF report said.

Since renovation would require the felling of trees in the ridge area, the EIA suggested that indigenous vegetation could be planted to improve wildlife habitat and restore the ecological function of the forest.

But a bench headed by Justice JS Kehar refused to take up Centre’s application that wanted permission to restore and restart Rabindra Rangshala.

Justice Kehar told attorney general Mukul Rohatgi on Friday he visited the place and was not inclined to give permission to the government, which moved court 16 years after a recommendation was made to restart it.

“We have been there. If we allow you, then it will give me pain for my entire life. Let another bench hear and decide it,” he told the law officer in a candid admission.

“It’s a forest. Around 8,000 people will visit the place, there will be cars. It (forest) will get destroyed,” Justice Kehar said. His colleague Justice C Nagappan was of the same view.

Rohatgi said that once a forest couldn’t always be a forest and contended the court could impose strict restrictions for the operation.

“We can bring down the audience strength from 8,000 to 2,000. The shows will not be held every day but once a week,” Rohatgi said. He said the entire area was spread over 800 acres and the theatre occupied only 37 acres.

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