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Central Vista: Activists protest 'continued misuse' of environment clearance norms

Counterview Desk
Protesting against “repeated misuse” of procedures of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, 2006, while clearing New Delhi’s Central Vista Redevelopment Project, and “failure” of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC)-Infra 2 to carry out mandatory detailed project scrutiny, citing agenda item No 56.3.14 (click here), India’s environmentalists have said that not only was the “iconic” Parliament building delinked from the need for detailed examination, a similar approach is now been proposed for the rest of the Central Vista project.
A draft letter – prepared by environmentalists, and addressed to T Haque, chairman, EAC (Infra-2), Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India – forwarded by Gujarat-based senior activist Rohit Prajapati to Counterview, regrets, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) and the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) want oddly sought revision of Terms of Reference (ToR) for this. The letter seeks signatures from concerned citizens across India.

Text:

We are shocked to learn that the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) and the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) has once again approached the EAC (Infra-2) seeking an amendment of the Terms of Reference (ToR) granted to it, to accommodate, in hindsight, other components of the Central Vista Redevelopment Project.
The project proponents MoHUA and CPWD is encouraged by the leniency shown by the EAC Infra-2 as it has allowed for piecemeal approach to carry out mandatory environment impact assessment first by separating the Parliament building from the full project. 
The environment clearance for the Parliament building was granted on June 17, 2020. The project proponent has once again indulged in the same approach while seeking an amendment the ToR granted on November 10, 2020, which is gross misuse of law.
This ToR was for ‘Development/Redevelopment of Common Central Secretariat Buildings and Central Conference Centre’ is being to be amended to include the “Prime Minister Office, Prime Minister's Residence, SPG and the Vice President Enclave.” It is ironic that the application for amending this ToR has been filed (November 11, 2020) on the very next day the first ToR was issued (on November 10, 2020).
Since early this year, several concerned citizens have repeatedly pointed out the misuse of law by the project proponents and lack of application of mind by the EAC while examining this project. This has also been widely reported in the mainstream media. 
At present the judgment of the Supreme Court, where this piecemeal approach to obtain approvals and several other aspects of the Central Vista project are pending adjudication. But the EAC is completely failing in its duty to raise critical questions regarding the project proponent’s bending of environmental laws as it pleases.
Expert Appraisal Committee is failing in its duty to raise critical questions regarding the project proponent’s bending of environmental laws
As you would have already seen in newspapers, the same project proponents have also announced another component of this project, the New India Garden on the Yamuna floodplain. However, this has not been included in the application seeking amendment of the ToR. 
We would like to strongly emphasise that this is yet another attempt to hide the interlinked nature of this project that comprises of the Parliament Building, the buildings of the Common Central Secretariat, the Raksha Bhawan, the Common Conference Centre, the Prime Minster Office, the Prime Minister's Residence, the SPG, and the Vice President's Enclave and the New India Garden.
It is absolutely unacceptable that instead of scrutinising the documents at the stage of vetting of the terms of reference, the EAC is overlooking extensive errors in the documentation. As an illustration, the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) achieved far exceeds the permissible FAR which makes the proposed development/redevelopment illegal.
We therefore demand that the EAC immediately:
  1. Reject this application for ToR on the grounds that it is only one part of the larger Central Vista Redevelopment project is being once again pursued in a piecemeal and stand-alone manner.
  2. Reject this application as several legal challenges related to Central Vista Redevelopment are pending before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. 
  3. Recall the recommendation to grant environment clearance dated June 17, 2020 for the Parliament expansion, the ToR for Common Central Secretariat dated November 10, 2020 as they were erroneously appraised based on false, incomplete and misleading information.
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Copy of the letter proposed to the be sent to members of EAC (Infra-2), as also to RP Gupta, environment secretary, Government of India

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