CPWD applies for environmental clearance for new Parliament building
New Delhi: The Central Public Works Department (CPWD) has applied for environment clearance to begin construction of the new Parliament building as part of the Central Vista redevelopment project, but environmentalists are up in arms over the classification of the “expansion and renovation of the Parliament Building” as an “individual project” and not part of a larger plan.
A person directly involved in the project said on condition of anonymity: “it is just a matter of sequencing; Parliament will be constructed first.”
Environmentalists also say CPWD has also not submitted a traffic impact assessment report for it but the person cited above said that a traffic impact assessment study is almost complete and would soon be submitted.
The application, which was submitted on February 13, will be tabled before the expert appraisal committee (EAC) of the ministry of environment, forest and climate change on February 25 for approval.
In its application for environment clearance, CPWD listed the building as an “individual project”. It said the new Parliament House would have no “cumulative effects due to proximity to other existing or planned projects with similar effects”. The CPWD report also states there are no “interlinked projects”.
The Central Vista project aims to build a new Parliament house, a new Central secretariat complex for ministries, and new residences for the Prime Minister and the Vice President. The entire project is expected to be completed by 2024.
LokPATH (people for Appropriate Transformation of Habitat), a collective of urban development experts and civic society members, has written to the EAC in this regard.
“The application (CPWD) treats the expansion of Parliament as a stand-alone project whereas it is part of the Central Vista redevelopment project. The housing and urban affairs ministry had publicised it as one project while appointing the consultant for it in October last year. We have written to them, stating it shouldn’t be cleared,” Anuj Srivastava, spokesperson for LokPATH, said.
Experts say the impact of the project should be assessed in totality.
Kanchi Kohli, environment campaigner and researcher with the Centre for Policy Research, said, “It is imperative that impacts of large projects like the Central Vista be assessed and appraised in totality, allowing public inputs to weigh in. Breaking up projects and piecemeal assessments is not just against the law but amounts to deliberate underplaying of impacts.”
The new Parliament complex is proposed on a plot adjacent to the existing building. The land use of the 9.5-acre plot is yet to be changed from “recreational” to “Parliament” by the Delhi Development Authority. According to the CPWD application, 194 trees out of 326 have to be cut/transplanted for the new state-of-the-art complex.
To be sure, the CPWD-appointed environment consultant’s report, which is attached along with the EC application, says there will be an increase in traffic both during and after construction,
“There will be an increase in road traffic due to addition of new building with higher design capacity as also increase due to visitors, over time,” the report of the environment consultant stated.
Given the scale of the Central Vista project—it will be spread over 101 acres on both sides of Rajpath—transport experts say instead of traffic impact assessment, there should be a study on mobility impact assessment.
Amit Bhatt, director transport, WRI India, said, “There should be a mobility impact assessment to understand how people will access the new developments and how will the transport systems respond to this increased demand. There should be an impact assessment not just for surrounding areas but for the influence zone, which is usually spread over a couple of kms.”
The government has set March 2022 as the deadline to complete the new Parliament complex. The new Lok Sabha central hall will be big enough to house 900 Members of Parliament (MPs), and flexible enough to house up to 1,350 MPs for a joint Parliament session.
The person cited in the first instance said “there will be not much impact on traffic due to the new Parliament building, as the number of MPs will not increase immediately.”
The Parliament Complex will be the centrepiece of the Central Vista project that has a deadline of 2024.
Union minister of housing and urban affairs Hardeep Singh Puri did not respond to requests for comment.