Historians, heritage enthusiasts appeal to Kovind to scrap bid to revamp Parliament, central vista

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Published on Sep 30, 2019 08:40 PM IST
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New Delhi

Over 3,000 people, including historians, urban designers and heritage enthusiasts on Sunday requested President Ram Nath Kovind to cancel the bid for redeveloping Parliament House, Central Secretariat and Central Vista in New Delhi.

An online petition (on Change.org) was circulated three days ago, listing out concerns with the bid document floated by the central government earlier this month.

The petition says the central government had overlooked the international best practices for interventions in heritage areas. It points out how the central public works department (CPWD), which had floated the tender, had not specified the buildings and areas to be redesigned, the height control norms and, most importantly, not consulted the public before undertaking redevelopment of a “Grade 1 heritage site”.

The online petition started by historians Narayani Gupta, Sohail Hashmi and heritage enthusiast Nikhil Kumar sought the President of India’s intervention to protect the area.

The document noted that the bid proposal does not take into consideration the fact that any intervention in a heritage area needs to be preceded by a Heritage Impact Assessment report. The signatories said “this goes against the Government of India’s own submission to UNESCO nominating Lutyens’ zone among the World Heritage Cities.”

“This plan is totally ill-conceived, unnecessary, and a sheer waste of public money. This is something that will destroy the character of the city,” said heritage enthusiast Sohail Hashmi. “We thought that this is something that cannot be allowed to go unchecked and put together a document to be sent to the president since he is the final authority,” he said.

It said there had been no assessment of the environmental impact of the plan and that the timeline to carry out the plan was extremely small.

Kumar said, “Such a major redevelopment proposal has been initiated without conducting a needs assessment or consulting stakeholders and the public at large. Neither has any adherence to processes been followed. If an order to immediately halt this process is not issued, it is likely to result in the loss of a Grade 1 heritage site.”

Urban designer Arunava Dasgupta, professor at the School of Planning and Architecture, who has signed the petition, said, “The way in which the project is being imagined is hasty and does not have the requisite framework and guidelines for urban design and planning to be in place before it is implemented.”

Responding to the appeal, a senior official with the housing and urban affairs ministry said, “We have just invited ideas or proposals from professional architects and planners. All assessments will be done after we receive the proposals.”

The central government, on September 12, floated a request for proposal to redevelop or build a new Parliament by 2022, build a common secretariat for all the government ministries by 2024, and revamp the Central Vista.

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Monday, October 25, 2021