Central Vista green approval: Consolidated plan submitted
Criticised by the environment ministry’s expert appraisal committee (EAC) for what it termed a piecemeal approach to seeking approvals, the Central Public Works Department has submitted a single proposal for all the buildings under the Central Vista project that will require environmental clearance, although there is no mention of the Prime Minister’s office, which was there in the previous proposal.
In the new proposal, total built-up area has been reduced from 18,37,057 sq.m to 17,21, 500 sq.m, and the cost of the redevelopment project has increased by Rs 1656 crore, from Rs11,794 to Rs 13,450 crore.
CPWD’s earlier application to amend the terms of reference (TOR) for the project to add several new components of construction was rejected by EAC because CPWD was seeking clearances in a piecemeal manner.
EAC observed in the minutes of its meeting published on November 25 that CPWD should refrain from the piecemeal approach for the proposed development and redevelopment of the projects under Central Vista. The TOR is essentially the scope of the project. The grant of TOR is the initial clearance needed for any development project.
But independent experts have pointed out that the new proposal which was discussed by EAC on Wednesday for grant of TOR continues to be piecemeal and lacks transparency.
Union affairs minister Hardeep Puri, in charge of CPWD, did not respond for comment.
Kanchi Kohli, legal researcher, Centre for Policy Research, said: “The application has once again just been pieced together in a shallow and casual manner. There is no explanation on why some parts like the Prime Minister’s Office have been removed, whether there will be a separate application and why the costs of the project have gone up.”
CPWD officials didn’t comment on why the PM’s office complex is not mentioned in the revised proposal.
“The matter came to us today and it was discussed but the decision will be finalised and released in the minutes,” said T Haque, chairman of the EAC
The new Parliament building, which has already been granted environmental clearance (this is being challenged in the Supreme Court), the New India garden, the underground transit, the PM’s office were all part of the central vista redevelopment project.
Experts say that none of this is reflected in the revised proposal submitted by the CPWD. Anuj Srivastava, spokesperson of LokPATH, (People for Appropriate Transformation of Habitat), a collective of urban development experts and civil society members, said: “Why are they in a rush? Instead of deliberating and discussing this plan in detail, the government is hurriedly getting approval. Our main objection is to their piecemeal approach. There is no transparency in the way the project is being executed.”
Urban planners, environmental researchers and activists said CPWD had already tweaked its Central Vista proposal several times.
In November, CPWD submitted a conceptual plan for redeveloping the common central secretariat buildings and central conference centre along with the Prime Minister’s office and residence, a Special Protection Group building and the Vice-President’s enclave. 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.
In its latest proposal, CPWD said the total built-up area will be 17,21,500 sq m and area to be demolished 4,58,820 sq m and that the project is coming up over a total plot area admeasuring 5,48,776 sq m.
Experts said the demolition itself will have a massive impact on air quality and public health. “Even from this partial disclosure and information available through media reports it is evident that the project will involve massive demolition and digging activity including that for the underground transit and basements. The application does not even consider it necessary to disclose whether alternatives have been examined, which is a mandatory requirement. Does this mean that there is no other way around uprooting hundreds of trees, diverting already scarce water resources for construction and curtailment of public space to accommodate central government office infrastructure? At present there are no studies to show if this has even been considered,” said Kohli.