The 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games could make history of the most bizarre kind. It could become the first major international sports event to host athletes in makeshift accommodation that will be pulled down once the show is over.
An expert committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests — without whose clearance no project can go through — has said that the proposed Games Village on the Yamuna riverbed, near the Akshardham temple in east Delhi, should have temporary structures only. This is one of the 54 conditions the panel has laid down while giving clearance to the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), which is developing the Village. The clearance came earlier this month.
So, if the DDA goes ahead with the Games Village on the riverbed, the estimated Rs 1,000 crore of taxpayer's money that will be spent on it will do nothing to augment the housing infrastructure in Delhi. AK Sarin, engineer member of DDA, said a panel within the DDA would study the conditions set by the ministry and suggest action.
Riverbed was wrong choice
The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) which is developing the 2010 Commonwealth Games Village with private participation should have done its homework before choosing Yamuna riverbed as the site.
The experts committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, which has cited 54 conditions in the environment clearance to the project, has said that it was not convinced that environmental impact of the constructions on the riverbed had been studied to satisfactory levels. Therefore, the DDA should erect only structures that can be dismantled, the committee headed by Paritosh C Tyagi said.
The panel has also said that the DDA could have considered other sites for the Village as well that could have been less harmful to the environment. But it did not do so and the riverbed was the only site that was shown to the Commonwealth Games Federation.
Also, the committee observed that the DDA had not adopted the 1999 recommendations of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI).
The institute had recommended permitting proposals for meeting recreational, cultural, heritage, religious and aesthetic requirements of the city.
The proposed hotel and residences (next to Akshardham) were not covered by the NEERI recommendations, the expert committee has said.
When contacted, consultant environmental planner with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, Manu Bhatnagar, said the need of the day is to develop reservoirs and wetlands in the riverbed and not real estate.
Alternative sites for Games Village
The ministry's expert committee has suggested the less environmentally sensitive area of Safdarjung airport as an alternative site. But the DDA has already rejected it because it is considered too near to the high security VIP Zone.
Former president of Council of Architecture Premendra Raj Mehta said that if a new area is to be developed, then Dwarka and open tracts of land beyond it can be considered. It is close to the airport and has Metro connectivity too.
Architect and planner Kuldip Singh said the ideal site for the Village would be the Lodhi Road government flats complex.
The flats are old but with no heritage value and can be redeveloped. The area is sprawled over 30 to 35 hectares and is close to the stadium. Traffic congestion would also be minimum, Singh said.