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Pragati Maidan makeover: Will historic Hall of Nations, Nehru Pavilion be demolished?

Delhi High Court is likely to decide on February 23 if the famed Hall of Nations - India’s first pillar-less structure - as well as Hall of Industries and Nehru Memorial Pavillion should be demolished.

delhi Updated: Feb 22, 2017 20:26 IST
Sanjeev K Ahuja
Sanjeev K Ahuja
Hindustan Times
Pragati Maidan,Exhibition Centre,G20 Summit
Hall of Nations at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi. It was India’s first pillar-less structure. Architects and heritage activists across the world have been campaigning to save it.(Arvind Yadav/HT PHOTO)

It is hard to recognise Pragati Maidan these days. The Defence and Haryana Pavilions have been razed, hammers are at work at Hall No. 1 and reports say bigger changes are afoot.

However, Delhi High Court is likely to decide on February 23 if the famed Hall of Nations - India’s first pillar-less structure - as well as Hall of Industries and the iconic Nehru Memorial Pavillion should also be demolished. Architects and heritage activists across the world have been campaigning to save the buildings that hosted India’s first modern trade fair in 1972.

Widely known as the venue for the annual India International Trade Fair, Pragati Maidan is undergoing a historic makeover. The venue is set to get an Integrated Exhibition-cum-Convention Centre (IECC) spread over 123 acres, complete with 500-room hotel, large food and beverages complex, pools, moving floors and helipad, besides exhibition halls.

The IECC, a flagship project of India Trade Promotion Organisation under the commerce ministry, is likely to open with the G20 Summit in early 2019, the fate of is yet to be decided. It is expected to compete with world’s best exhibition complexes such as Crystal Palace in London, Biosphere in Montreal and Eiffel Tower in Paris.

“The Rs 2,254crore project will have a state-of-the-art convention centre with seating capacity of 7,000 – five times the capacity of Vigyan Bhavan. After redevelopment, the exhibition space at Pragati Maidan will be doubled to 1.19 lakh sqm as against the present 65,000 sqm. We hope to complete the first phase of construction by early 2019 when IECC may host the G20 summit,” Rita Teaotia, secretary department of commerce, ministry of commerce and industry, said recently on the sidelines of curtain raiser event on Global Exhibition on Services.

ITPO officials say the IECC will be a signature complex showcasing the technological, scientific, economic, and intellectual prowess of a resurgent India.

Nehru Memorial Pavilion at Pragati Maidan. ( Arvind Yadav/HT PHOTO )

According to the commerce ministry, the project is envisaged to become a high-tech connection between the city, its people and the global community. The centre has been designed to ensure clarity of function and ease of circulation.

Once IECC is complete, the visitors will not have to park their cars outside as there is plan for a parking lot for 4,800 cars.

The 1.19 lakh sqm exhibition space is in addition to the existing 40,000 sqm in the air conditioned halls that are not being demolished. A total of 27 halls and pavilions, including 23 state pavilions, six ministry pavilions, eight halls (No. 1-6, 14 and 15), are to be razed.

The air-conditioned exhibition halls (7A-H, 8,9, 10,11,12,12A &18) will not be demolished and the annual IITF for 2017 and 2018 will be held in these halls, the ITPO officials said.

“The demolition of the structures will take about six months as the matter related to three pavilions – Hall of Nations, Hall of Industries and Nehru Memorial Pavilion is pending in the court. We hope to get clearance on the same soon. We are in the process of finalising a detailed project report,” an ITPO official said on condition of anonymity as only the CMD is authorised to speak to the media he said.

Whether ITPO will operate the convention centre on its own or bring in a private player to operate and manage it is yet to be decided.

Demolished Hall No.1 at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi February 17, 2017. ( Arvind Yadav/HT PHOTO )

The convention centre will have a seating capacity of 7,000 in single format (3,000 pax Plenary Hall and 4,000 pax Functional Hall) fully equipped with facilities for country-to-country level international conferences and conventions. The convention centre will be on an elevated podium 8m above ground and will have a floating roof, giving it a grand look.

The space below the podium will be used for food and beverage outlets, service and storing facilities of furniture for Convention Centre. Other features include amphitheatre and other facilities to showcase India’s culture and heritage. The Crafts Museum and Science Museum will continue to function as it is.

ITPO chairman and managing director LC Goyal could not be reached despite repeated attempts.

First Published: Feb 20, 2017 14:09 IST