Decision on green nod to Parliament building renovation may take a week
The renovation of the Parliament building is part of the Centre’s larger “central vista” project, which includes a new Parliament, a new central secretariat complex for ministries, and new residences for the prime minister and the vice president. The entire project is expected to be completed by 2024.Updated: Apr 23, 2020 14:42 IST
The Union environment ministry’s expert appraisal committee (EAC) has not made public its decision regarding environmental clearance for expansion and renovation of the Parliament building following a meeting on Wednesday.
The EAC on constructions, townships and area development projects met on Wednesday to consider environmental clearance for several infrastructure projects, including the contentious Parliament building project that will cost Rs 922 crore, according to estimates by the Central Public Works Department, and involve transplanting at least 233 trees from the existing site.
The project was discussed in detail by the 13-member committee but the decision cannot be immediately shared, the panel’s members said.
“The decision is not final until the minutes are drafted. It will take a week. We have to hear 15 more projects tomorrow and the day after,” T Haque, chairman of the EAC, said on phone.
The renovation of the Parliament building is part of the Centre’s larger “central vista” project, which includes a new Parliament, a new central secretariat complex for ministries, and new residences for the prime minister and the vice president. The entire project is expected to be completed by 2024.
Several concerns have been raised by architects and urban planners regarding the project. One of them is that despite central vista being a single development project, it has been broken into parts for ease of obtaining environmental clearance.
The CPWD has listed the Parliament building as an “individual project” in environment impact assessment documents. It states that there are no “interlinked projects”.
HT reported on February 21 the new Parliament complex is proposed to be built on a plot adjacent to the existing building, and yet is being considered by the EAC only as a renovation project. Land use for the 9.5-acre plot was changed from “recreational” to “Parliament” by the Delhi Development Authority last month.
DDA last December changed the land use of a 15-acre plot from recreational to residential on Dalhousie Road near South Block, where the prime minister’s new residence is to be built.
LokPATH (people for Appropriate Transformation of Habitat), a collective of urban development experts and civil society activists, raised these issues and asked why such a large amount of money is being invested in the Parliament building amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“As you are aware this project is not just about renovations to the existing Parliament but involves the construction of an entirely new building of an additional 65000 sq m on a separate plot next to the present Parliament,” LokPATH wrote to the EAC on April 21.
It said that according to “the applicant, the present cost of the project is Rs 922 crore. At a time of the Covid-19 pandemic, we need to prioritise government spending for medical facilities and public health infrastructure. Since the global and Indian economies are also very fragile, it would be wasteful and cruel to allow such a project to come up when millions of fellow citizens in the agriculture, fisheries and other basic sectors are struggling to cope financially.”
On Wednesday, LokPATH again wrote to the Central Vista Committee that the approval by DDA for land use change had been done when there are cases pending in courts on the matter. The land use change can alter the character of open and public use spaces and allow extensive building activity in the area, apart from restricting public access, it said.