The ministry’s expert appraisal committee will consider CPWD’s application to amend the terms of reference (TOR) for redeveloping the common central secretariat buildings, on Wednesday.(HT photo)
The ministry’s expert appraisal committee will consider CPWD’s application to amend the terms of reference (TOR) for redeveloping the common central secretariat buildings, on Wednesday.(HT photo)

Several last-minute additions to CPWD’s makeover plan for central secretariat buildings

The masterplan also proposed a central conference centre, Prime Minister office and residence, Special Protection Group building and Vice-President Enclave.
By Jayashree Nandi & Risha Chitlangia | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON NOV 25, 2020 05:38 AM IST

The Central Public Works Department (CPWD) has submitted a conceptual plan for redeveloping the common central secretariat buildings and central conference centre along with the Prime Minister office and residence, Special Protection Group building and Vice-President Enclave -- all part of the Central Vista redevelopment project -- to the union environment ministry for environmental clearance.

The masterplan submitted by the HCP Design, Planning and Management Private Limited, the Ahmedabad-based architecture firm tasked with the redevelopment project, proposed to consolidate all ministries into 11 central secretariat buildings that would be built on either side of the Rajpath. At present, the ministries are housed in various buildings such as Vayu Bhawan, Nirman Bhawan, Shashtri Bhawan and Rail Bhawan among others.

The masterplan also proposed a central conference centre, Prime Minister office and residence, Special Protection Group building and Vice-President Enclave.

These buildings were not part of the initial plan submitted by CPWD to the environment ministry, official documents suggest.

The ministry’s expert appraisal committee will consider CPWD’s application to amend the terms of reference (TOR) for redeveloping the common central secretariat buildings, on Wednesday.

The amendment application was made only a day after the environment ministry granted the TOR based on CPWD’s initial proposal to redevelop only the common central secretariat and central conference centre.

The application has angered citizens groups about the alleged piecemeal approach in which the entire Central Vista project is being implemented.

The application for amending the TOR, available on the Parivesh website and seen by HT, suggests that the Prime Ministers’ Office, Prime Minister’s residence, Vice-President enclave and Special Protection Group building have been added to the proposal. This had led to an increase in the built-up area from 1,754,057.35 sqm to 1,837,057.35 sqm and an uptick in waste water generation, municipal waste generation, increase of investment cost from Rs 11,038 crore to Rs 11,794 crore and other features of the area development project.

The TOR is essentially the scope of the project. The grant of TOR is the initial clearance needed for any development project.

“We can’t apply for environment clearance without land use change. All the buildings are individual projects. Therefore, we have to independently seek environment approval for them. Now that plans for other buildings are ready, we are in the process of getting necessary approvals,” said a senior CPWD official, requesting anonymity.

Several citizens have requested the Chairman of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), T Haque, to reject the application on the grounds that it is only a part of the larger Central Vista Redevelopment project but is being pursued in a piecemeal manner, leading to improper assessment of environmental impacts.

Lt Col Anuj Srivastava (retired) of Lokpath, a citizen’s movement, wrote in his submission to Haque on November 24 that the ministry of housing and urban affairs and CPWD are being encouraged to resubmit their proposals associated with the project because of the leniency shown by the EAC on infrastructure projects.

The EAC had granted environmental clearance to the Parliament building on June 17. The MoHUA and CPWD were granted TOR by EAC on November 10 and the next day, they applied for amendment with addition of other buildings, all part of the Central Vista project.

Haque did not respond to HT’s queries on the project on Tuesday.

A senior official of the ministry of housing and urban affairs said this is a procedural matter.

“The government is constantly changing the contours of the CV redevelopment project in its applications for approvals and the Expert Appraisal Committee has not bothered to ask them any questions. All the important questions are raised by people watching this show of regulatory abetment since the time this project was announced. The Environment Ministry has basically allowed the CPWD and the Urban development Ministry to decide for themselves how and which environmental laws should be applied to this project,” said Manju Menon, senior fellow at Centre for Policy Research.

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