A presidential wish has run into opposition. President APJ Abdul Kalam's proposal to set up a five megawatt solar plant and convention centre inside the Rashtrapati Bhavan will irreparably damage the heritage value of the estate, say conservationists.
The photovoltaic plant and a convention centre-cum-office complex on a 20-acre site has been proposed as a symbol of the president's 'vision statement about energy security and environmental responsibility.' The site identified for the complex is the open green alongside Mother Teresa Crescent near the entrance court that connects with the Mughal Gardens.
Writer Patwant Singh, who has been actively campaigning for a world heritage status for Lutyens' Delhi, is among the many voices that have risen in opposition to Kalam's idea.
"This will open the floodgates for ill-conceived construction projects in Lutyens' Bungalow Zone. Such proposals show that there is no sanctity for built heritage that is the common asset of all the ordinary citizens. We have to realise that our heritage has to be handed down in full authenticity to future generations," Singh said. Heritage buildings, said Singh, could not be distorted by those who are in power and promised to fight the project to the end. "I will approach the Supreme Court if the project goes ahead," Singh said.
The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has also protested against the project. Convenor of the Northern Chapter of INTACH OP Jain said strict heritage conservation should be the guiding principle while dealing with heritage sensitive areas.
"The president's estate is one of India's architectural masterpieces and is capable of being included in the World Heritage List in the coming years. The project should be shifted to a less sensitive area," Jain said.
As the opposition builds up, the union ministry of power has gone ahead with consultations with the ministry of urban development. Power secretary RV Shahi said designers appointed for the project have been asked to integrate the structures with the rest of the complex.
On being asked about the appropriateness of permitting such structures within the heritage area, he said the power ministry would try to satisfactorily reply all queries put to it by the Urban Art Commission and the Heritage Committee under the urban development ministry.
Urban development secretary M Ramachandran said the project proposal has not been put up before him as yet. He, however, assured that the project will be examined from all points of view.