Central Vista redevelopment will not harm landmarks: DDA
The redevelopment of the Central Vista area in the National Capital will not harm any heritage buildings in the area and historical landmarks like the Rashtrapati Bhawan, the North and South Blocks, the Parliament house and the National Archives will be conserved, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has told the Supreme Court, which is expected to hear the matter on Friday.
The Central Vista is being redeveloped after taking into account the present needs of the city and will be carried out with “extreme sensitivity” to preserve the area’s heritage, a counter-affidavit filed before the top court on July 4 stated.
HT has reviewed a copy of the affidavit.
The Supreme Court is hearing two petitions which challenged the redevelopment project that aims to create a new Parliament house and 10 administrative buildings for all the government ministries, convert the North and South blocks into museums, and develop the Central Vista avenue that connects Rajpath to India Gate.
“While making the recommendations, DDA has ensured that no heritage building is /will be harmed during the process of redevelopment,” the affidavit said.
Many of the buildings on the Central Vista, including the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Parliament and the North and South Blocks, as well as India Gate, were designed by British architects Edward Lutyens and Herbert Baker in the 1920s and ’30s and are Grade 1 heritage buildings.
DDA also stressed that there will be no loss of green area due to the project, saying open spaces in the Central Vista will be kept intact by adequately compensating the loss of 9.5 acre of green cover in the district park by adding 5.64 acre of green area along Rajpath and another 3.9 acre in the C-Zone.
The district park is the plot on which the new Parliament building is expected to come up, and currently houses a reception area, parking and other service infrastructure for the Parliament house. It is marked as a district park in the Parliament house complex. The entire Central Vista precinct falls within Zone D. The C Zone refers to the Civil Lines zone, which includes features like the Roshanara Bagh from Mughal times, and the old Secretariat Complex from the colonial period.
“The present District Park area of 9.5 acre has been compensated by providing 5.64 acre in D Zone (Central Vista) and 3.9 acre in C Zone, thereby keeping the green spaces intact. It is pertinent to mention that as per modified plan, the green area along the Rajpath will increase by 5.64 acre,” the affidavit said.
The redevelopment project proposes to do away with the encroachments along the avenue and increase the green cover on either side of the path.
Advocate Rajeev Suri and Lt Colonel Anuj Srivastava filed petitions in the Delhi high court in February, following which the court ordered that the DDA should approach it before notifying the proposed changes in the land use.
A division bench of chief justice DN Patel and justice C Hari Shankar, however, stayed this order prompting Suri to move the Supreme Court.
The top court had on March 3 transferred the entire case to itself from the Delhi high court on the ground that the issue involves larger public interest. The case will be heard by a three-judge bench headed by justice AM Khanwilkar on Friday.
Suri’s petition stated that the DDA did not have the power to notify changes to land use and standards of population density.
“The change in land use is in the direction of aligning the existing land use with the proposed Central Vista Development / Redevelopment Plan and it is not going to alter any fundamental character or historicity of this area. It is only a readjustment / reorganization of the Central Government Ministry offices”, the DDA said in its affidavit.
It was contended that the change in land use was in conformity with the Delhi Development Act and each and every provision of the Act as well as the Delhi Development (Master Plan / Zonal Development Plan) Rules was followed.
Srivastava challenged the public hearings held in February, and argued that they were not a meaningful exercise.
The DDA rebutted this argument stating, “Public hearing was held on February 6 and February 7….Full opportunity was granted to each and every person who approached for public hearing. The objections were duly categorized by Board of Enquiry and Hearing and persons raising similar issues were heard at the same time. The opportunity of public hearing had not been denied and in fact submissions of each person have been duly considered by the BoEH while giving its recommendations,” the DDA’s response said.
The DDA stated that the proposal will not increase residential population density in Central Vista area though floating population will increase due to proposed government office buildings.
“The proposed modification will increase the floating population which will be offset to an extent on account of persons moving out of existing offices housed in six hutments of 90 acre (which will developed into organized spaces). This land use change proposal is not going to alter any fundamental living history and heritage of this area”, DDA said.
The Supreme Court in June declined to stay the redevelopment of Lutyen’s Delhi’s Central Vista for the second time in two months, saying it could prevent government authorities from acting according to the law.