Criticized by the Environment Ministry’s Expert Assessment Committee (EAC) for what it called a piecemeal approach to applying for approvals, the Central Department of Public Works presented a single proposal for all buildings under the Central project View that will require environmental clearance, although there is no mention of the Prime Minister’s office, which was present in the previous proposal.
In the new proposal, the total built-up area was reduced from 18.37.057 sq m to 17.21.500 sq m, and the cost of the redevelopment project increased by Rs 1656 crore, from Rs11.794 to Rs 13.450 crore.
CPWD’s previous application to change the terms of reference (TOR) for the project to add several new building components was rejected by the EAC because CPWD was searching for permissions piecemeal.
The EAC noted in its meeting minutes released on November 25 that the CPWD should refrain from the piecemeal approach to proposed development and redevelopment of projects under Central Vista. TOR is essentially the aim of the project. The TOR grant is the initial authorization required for any development project.
But independent experts pointed out that the new proposal discussed on Wednesday by the EAC for granting TOR continues to be patchy and lacking in transparency.
Union affairs minister Hardeep Puri, in charge of the CPWD, did not respond for comment.
Kanchi Kohli, Legal Researcher, Center for Policy Research, said, “The application was once again put together in a superficial and haphazard way. There is no explanation as to why some parts such as the Prime Minister’s Office have been removed, if there will be a separate application and why the costs of the project have increased. “
CPWD officials did not comment on why the Prime Minister’s office complex is not mentioned in the revised proposal.
“The matter came to us today and has been discussed, but the decision will be finalized and announced in the minutes,” said T Haque, president of the EAC
T.The new Parliament building, which has already been granted environmental clearance (under appeal in the Supreme Court), the New India garden, the underground transit, the PM’s office were all part of the vision redevelopment project central.
Experts say none of this is reflected in the revised proposal presented by the CPWD. Anuj Srivastava, spokesperson for LokPATH, (People for Appropriate Transformation of Habitat), a collective of urban development experts and members of civil society, said: “Why are they in a hurry? Instead of deliberating and discussing this plan in detail, the government is quickly gaining approval. Our main objection is to their piecemeal approach. There is no transparency in the way the project is executed. “
Urban planners, environmental researchers and activists said the CPWD had already changed its Central Vista proposal several times.
In November, the CPWD unveiled a conceptual plan for the redevelopment of the Joint Central Secretariat and Central Conference Center buildings along with the Prime Minister’s office and residence, a Special Protection Group building and the Vice President’s Enclave. The change request was submitted just one day after the environment ministry granted the TOR based on the CPWD’s initial proposal to redevelop only the common central secretariat and central conference center.
In its latest proposal, CPWD stated that the total built-up area will be 17,21,500 sq m and the area to be demolished 4,58,820 sq m and that the project is coming up on a total plot area of 5,48,776 sq m.
Experts said the demolition itself will have a huge impact on air quality and public health. “Even from this partial disclosure and the information available through media reports it is clear that the project will involve massive demolition and excavation activities, including underground transit and basements. The application does not even consider it necessary to disclose whether alternatives have been considered, which is a mandatory requirement. Does this mean that there is no other way to uproot hundreds of trees, diverting the already scarce water resources for construction and the reduction of public space to house the infrastructure of central government offices? There are currently no studies to show whether this has been taken into account, ”Kohli said.